DOJ warns Washington state that marijuana remains illegal under federal law

DOJ warns Washington state that marijuana remains illegal under federal law

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[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] on Wednesday warned Washington state that although voters in the state legalized marijuana last month [Initiative 502, PDF], marijuana is still illegal under federal law [press release]. The DOJ announced that the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) [text] still lists marijuana as an illegal substance, regardless of how state laws classify the drug. In the press release the DOJ also emphasized that the CSA is still the controlling law in Washington state because states do not have power to overrule a federal law:

The Department of Justice is reviewing the legalization initiatives recently passed in Colorado and Washington State. 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. In enacting the Controlled Substances Act, Congress determined that marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance.

It remains to be seen to what extent the federal government will crack down on marijuana possession in Colorado and Washington state.

Marijuana [JURIST news archive] was a hot-button issue in several states in the November 6 election [JURIST report], as Washington and Colorado legalized marijuana. The Colorado initiative [Amendment 64, PDF] actually introduces an amendment to the state constitution, allowing adults over 21 to possess up to an ounce and privately grow up to six plants, although public use will be banned. In Oregon the Cannabis Tax Act Initiative [Measure 80, PDF] failed by approximately 55-to-45 percent [ report] of the vote. Medical marijuana was legalized in Massachusetts for the first time as over 60 percent of voters approved Question 3 [Petition 11-11, PDF], an indirect initiated statute that will allow marijuana use by patients [Harvard Crimson report] with “debilitating medical conditions” and create 35 medical marijuana dispensaries. Conversely, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act [Issue 5, PDF] was rejected by voters [AP report] in that state by approximately a 52-to-48 percent margin. The measure would have allowed doctors to issue a certificate to anyone with a “qualifying medical condition” to grow, process and use marijuana. Also on the ballot in Montana was a veto referendum regarding a 2011 revision [SB 423] of a 2004 law that established medical marijuana use in the state.