UPDATE #2: A statement from Rep. Jared Polis of Boulder, a leading advocate for marijuana legalization in Congress:
“I am thrilled that Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice are allowing Colorado and Washington to regulate their own state laws regarding recreational and medicinal marijuana. This is a big step in allowing small businesses to grow and succeed while following state and federal laws. I am hopeful that other states may see marijuana regulation as an opportunity to reduce crime, combat drug abuse, and enhance economic opportunity.”
"I fully support the eight priorities outlined by Attorney General Holder including prosecution for marijuana distribution to minors and protecting motorists from drugged drivers. This new, sensible, approach by the federal government will make all of us safer and respect the rights of states to determine how best to regulate marijuana within their borders."
UPDATE: Gov. John Hickenlooper issues a statement:
“We recognize how difficult this issue has been for the Department of Justice and we appreciate the thoughtful approach it has taken. Amendment 64 put Colorado in conflict with federal law. Today’s announcement shows the federal government is respecting the will of Colorado voters. [Pols emphasis]
“We share with the federal government its priorities going forward. We are working to improve education and prevention efforts directed at young people and on enforcement tools to prevent access to marijuana by those under 21 years of age. We are also determined to keep marijuana businesses from being fronts for criminal enterprises or other illegal activity, and we are committed to preventing the exportation of marijuana out of Colorado while also enhancing efforts to keep state roads safer from impaired drivers.”
The Justice Department will not seek to block the implementation of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington as long as the industry abides by state regulations, the Denver Post and Associated Press were first to report Thursday.
The Post, citing unnamed sources in Washington D.C., reports that a guidance will be issued to federal prosecutors in states with looser marijuana laws, marking a sweeping shift in the country’s marijuana policy.
In a sweeping policy announcement, the Justice Department outlined eight top priority areas for its enforcement of marijuana laws.
They range from preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors to preventing sales revenue from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels and preventing the diversion of marijuana outside of states where it is legal under state law.
Sen. Steadman was right, and perhaps Rep. Jared Polis will be able to reconcile with Attorney General Eric Holder after this decision. This could be one of the final barriers to marijuana's general retail availability (and taxability) in Colorado beginning next January. Reason to believe the federal government will allow the provisions of Amendment 64 to fully take effect should also help pass the marijuana tax initiative set to appear on this year's ballot, giving Colorado's majority non-potsmokers a stake in legalization.
Given the federal government's age-old refusal to budge on the so-called "war on drugs," this is a pretty big deal.