According to CNN, outgoing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said he is “cautiously optimistic” when it comes to Colorado and Washington’s implementation of regulated and legal adult marijuana control systems.
“We don’t want to put into the federal system, low level people who are simply there for possessory offenses,” Holder stated Monday in an interview with CNN’s Evan Perez.
Last year, the DOJ chose eight enforcement areas that the department would concentrate on in a move aimed at calming nerves in Colorado and Washington. The eight “priority areas” have focused on the Justice Department’s attempts to prevent marijuana distribution to minors, as well as inter-state trafficking and violence associated with the illegal trade.
However, Holder noted in his interview Monday that the Justice Department could reverse its non-interventionist stance if Colorado and Washington’s regulatory frameworks are not up to par.
“What I’ve told the governors of those states is that if we’re not satisfied with their regulatory scheme that we reserve the right to come in and sue them. So we’ll see,” Holder said.
It remains to be seen how the new attorney general will treat states that decide to end marijuana prohibition going forward, but supportive lawmakers continue to push legislation that will finally protect states from federal interference and allow them to determine their own marijuana policies.
On Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced his intent to craft regulations that would allow banking services for legitimate marijuana businesses throughout the country. Banks and credit card companies have been wary of working with marijuana businesses for fear of federal prosecution and loss of licensing, causing serious issues with public safety and hampering the growth of the industry. Advocates are hopeful that this statement directly from Holder, proposing regulations instead of guidance memos, signals a growing tolerance of marijuana policy reform among the states.
On November 5, Colorado passed Prop AA, a measure that outlines the specific taxes to be imposed on the sale of recreational marijuana. The measure works in conjunction with Amendment 64, the ballot measure passed last year that taxes and regulates marijuana for adult use. Prop AA is an important step to establish taxes to fund the regulation of the marijuana industry. Although Colorado has ended their prohibition of marijuana, it is still illegal under federal law. The DOJ announced in July that it will not interfere in Colorado’s implementation of a regulated marijuana industry, but only if it adheres to the regulations set out in Amendment 64 with a fully-funded regulatory body, among other criteria.
In order to pay for regulation and oversight, Prop AA establishes a 15% excise tax imposed on the sale of marijuana from a cultivation facility and a 10% sales tax imposed when a consumer purchases marijuana from a retail store. This tax revenue will allow the state to monitor marijuana sales and implement the regulations set out in Amendment 64. The revenue will also go toward the Building Excellent Schools Today program, which will improve infrastructure, technology, and construction of new facilities for Colorado Public Schools.
In August, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the DOJ would avoid prosecuting low-level, non-violent drug offenders with harsh charges that carry mandatory minimums.
Today, a vicious cycle of poverty, criminality, and incarceration traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities. However, many aspects of our criminal justice system may actually exacerbate this problem, rather than alleviate it.
Now, the DOJ has taken another stepand announced that the new policy will also apply to persons who have been charged but not yet tried and persons who have been tried but not yet sentenced. The attorney general instructed his prosecutors to re-file charges in these cases so that low-level offenders will not be subjected to disproportionate sentences.
I am pleased to announce today that the department has issued new guidance to apply our updated charging policy not only to new matters, but also to pending cases where the defendant was charged before the policy was issued but is still awaiting adjudication of guilt.
This announcement comes in the wake of a statement by the DOJ last month that the federal government would allow states to continue with their plans to regulate and tax marijuana without interruption, so long as they meet certain criteria.
On Tuesday, MPP director of federal policy Dan Riffle spoke with Fox Business Network about the Department of Justice announcement last week that the federal government will not interfere with the implementation of legal marijuana businesses in Colorado and Washington.