Rep. Jared Polis: Apply Ogden Memo to Recreational Marijuana Stores

Colorado congressman says Holder needs to clarify federal policy.

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Rep. Jared Polis addresses a crowd at a health care reform demonstration on August 22, 2009 in Thornton, Colo.
Rep. Jared Polis addresses a crowd at a health care reform demonstration in Thornton, Colo., Aug. 22, 2009.

Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., wants Attorney General Eric Holder to confirm that the federal approach to state-licensed recreational marijuana stores, set to open next year in Colorado and Washington state, will be similar to the Justice Department's approach to medical marijuana dispensaries.

"Stores are opening next year," Polis told U.S News. "We would like to have the clarification from the attorney general to make it clear that the Ogden memo also applies" to recreational marijuana stores.

"That would give us peace of mind," he said.

[POLL: Majority of Americans Support Marijuana Legalization]

The Ogden memo is a 2009 document written by then-Deputy Attorney General David Ogden that says it wouldn't be an "efficient use" of federal resources to go after medical marijuana patients. It also said the Justice Department would primarily target dispensaries that commit other infractions, such as selling hard drugs, using guns or breaking state marijuana regulations.

Rep. Jared Polis addresses a crowd at a health care reform demonstration on August 22, 2009 in Thornton, Colo.
Rep. Jared Polis addresses a crowd at a health care reform demonstration in Thornton, Colo., Aug. 22, 2009.

Polis says the Justice Department has misled the states into believing a policy announcement was imminent for the past eight months.

"[E]very time we've talked to [Holder] about it — and I've talked to him many times about it — it's just kind of the typical attorney thing: no answer, just nothing, talk around it, not yes, not no," Polis told The Coloradoanin an interview this week.

[READ: Marijuana Activist Still Bummed About Obama, 'Legalization']

Despite the continued uncertainty over how federal law enforcement will manage the conflict between federal and state law, Polis told U.S. News he doesn't expect a dramatic crackdown on the two trailblazing states.

"That would be a terrible approach and it would be completely inappropriate," he said.

Polis, who made a fortune with the pioneering flower-delivery company ProFlowers, also said he doesn't personally plan to jump into what may become a booming marijuana industry.

"I don't have any plans" to enter the marijuana business, Polis said. "I've never considered that."

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