Clearing the haze on pot and the feds

Those who use, grow or sell recreational or medical marijuana in Colorado, and do so within the rules set by the state, probably won’t face federal prosecution.

In an announcement Thursday, officials with the Justice Department gave the states of Colorado and Washington a pass to continue their experiments in legalizing marijuana.

But there are some caveats. The Justice Department instructed U.S. attorneys not to make pot prosecution a high priority in states where it is legalized, but said they could still prosecute users, growers and sellers if necessary to prevent a number of problems from occurring. Those include sales to minors, money going to criminal groups, marijuana going to states where it is not legal or being used as a cover for the sale of other drugs.

Additionally, Thursday’s guidelines are not permanent policy. They could still be changed by this administration or a future president.

Even so, the guidelines are welcome. Shortly after last November’s election, when Colorado and Washington citizens voted to legalize recreational use of marijuana, officials from both states began trying to get information from federal officials on how they would handle marijuana in the two states, since possession of pot remains a crime under federal law.

The guidelines issued Thursday are a sensible way to respect the will of voters in Colorado and Washington while maintaining the possibility of prosecution if serious issues arise.


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