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WA Pot Legalization in Effect; Will DEA Play "Don't Ask, Don't Tell?"

December 6, 2012 08:02:22 am

Washington state's new marijuana-legalization law takes effect today, but the state's congressional delegation's isn't saying much about it, reports the Seattle Times. That does little to clarify the state's unprecedented conflict with the federal ban on marijuana. It also leaves unclear whether voters — who approved legalization 56 to 44 percent — can expect their elected representatives to stand up for the state law. Yesterday, U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan said the Justice Department still was reviewing legalization measures approved last month by voters in Washington and Colorado: "The Department's responsibility to enforce the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged. Neither States nor the Executive branch can nullify a statute passed by Congress."

Legal experts, as well as marijuana advocates, expect the federal government will quietly let the state laws go forward. As Richard Epstein, a professor at New York University School of Law, put it, the Drug Enforcement Administration is "going to play its version of 'don't ask, don't tell.' " Colorado's law, which mirrors Washington's new tolerance for personal possession of marijuana, is expected to take effect within 30 days. Three House members from Colorado have backed a bill to prevent the federal Controlled Substances Act from pre-empting state laws. Since January 2010, federal agents have raided more than 200 medical-marijuana dispensaries, labs, and cultivation sites in eight states, including Washington, says Kris Hermes of Americans for Safe Access, an advocacy group for medical marijuana.

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