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Feds ease off on medical marijuana; recreational next?
President Obama was once overheard telling the outgoing Russian president that he would have "more flexibility" after his second election.
He was referring to a missile treaty, but his administration is apparently now extending that flexibility to marijuana.
Part of the pot-smoking "Choom gang" in high school, Obama's Justice Department is siding with Colorado against Nebraska and Oklahoma over the flow of Colorado pot into other states.
The two states filed a lawsuit directly in the supreme Court a year ago, arguing that Colorado's legal recreational marijuana hurts the other states' ability to enforce state laws and is draining law enforcement resources.
The Justice Department claims Colorado's law, which allows people to possess only one ounce or less of marijuana, doesn't cause that many problems for the other states.
While the Obama administration "steadfastly opposes legalization of marijuana" according to its website, the administration has also said it would not stand in the way of states that want to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana as long as there are effective controls to keep marijuana away from kids, the black market and federal property.
It says it doesn't have the resources to police all violations of federal marijuana law, so it will focus on those priorities.
But the federal spending bill passed by Congress over the weekend takes things a little farther.
There's a provision hidden in the 1,603 bill that effectively ends the federal government's prohibition on medical marijuana.
Federal drug agents are now prohibited from raiding retail operations in states where medical marijuana is legal.
That's been the practice the Obama administration has been following, but the spending bill will make it a matter of law.
Clearly we've come a long way from the days when Nancy Reagan started the "Just Say No" anti-drug campaign.
Members of her Republican Party have traditionally supported the war on drugs, but many now favor the medical use of marijuana, and legalization appeals to millennials, a demographic group the GOP wants to reach.
"The war on medical marijuana is over," said Bill Piper, a lobbyist with the Drug Policy Alliance, who called the move historic. "Now the fight moves on to legalization of all marijuana. This is the strongest signal we have received from Congress [that] the politics have really shifted. Congress has been slow to catch up with the states and American people, but it is catching up."
Recreational marijuana use is not an activity to be promoted, and carries heavy costs to society. Medical marijuana should receive a fair hearing, but should also be required to prove itself as safe and effective as any other drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
We would rather see any changes carried out through direct legislative action instead of the executive orders Obama prefers.
But enforcement of marijuana laws has traditionally been disproportionately costly both to society and recreational or medical users.
Law enforcement dollars are better spent against any number of other offenses.