Should the Justice Department Challenge State Marijuana Laws?

The attorney general will allow state laws legalizing use of the drug to stand.

Jars full of medical marijuana are seen at Sunset Junction medical marijuana dispensary on May 11, 2010, in Los Angeles.

Jars full of medical marijuana are seen at Sunset Junction medical marijuana dispensary on May 11, 2010, in Los Angeles.

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On Thursday, the Justice Department announced that it would not challenge the legalization of marijuana by Colorado and Washington, but expected states with such laws to strictly regulate use of the drug. Attorney General Eric Holder informed the governors of those states that the department would not interfere with implementation of the laws legalizing marijuana use for adults, even though such use is against federal law.

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Medicinal marijuana is legal in 18 states and the District of Columbia, and recreational use is allowed in Colorado and Washington. The Department of Justice referred to marijuana as "a dangerous drug," adding that that its sale and distribution is "a serious crime," but said that at this time it would not interfere with state laws allowing its legal use:

The Department's guidance in this memorandum rests on its expectation that states and local governments that have enacted laws authorizing marijuana-related conduct will implement strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems that will address the threaten those state laws could pose to public safety, public health, and other law enforcement interests.

The department also released  a new marijuana enforcement policy which outlined eight enforcement areas. These include seeking to prevent marijuana use among minors and the spread of marijuana to states where it is not legal, as well as preventing revenue from marijuana sales from supporting criminal activity of gangs or cartels.

In a statement accompanying the new policy, the Justice Department said it expects all states to rigorously enforce their local laws. It reserved the right of the department to challenge those laws, and said "if any of the stated harms do materialize — either despite a strict regulatory scheme or because of the lack of one — federal prosecutors will act aggressively to bring individual prosecutions focused on federal enforcement priorities and the Department may challenge the regulatory scheme themselves in these states."

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Opponents of both medicinal and recreational marijuana use say studies prove the drug is not safe for human consumption, and legalizing it is a big step back for the war on drugs. They say that even controlled marijuana use is dangerous:

The argument that we can tax and regulate marijuana and derive income from it is false. The increased use will increase the multitude of costs that come with marijuana use. The costs from health and mental wellness problems, accidents, and damage to our economic productivity will far out strip any tax obtained.

What do you think? Should the Justice Department challenge state marijuana laws? Take the poll and comment below.

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