The United States is in a difficult position regarding cannabis legislation. On the one hand, 20 states have legalized cannabis for medicinal use and two states are even permitting the recreational use of cannabis. On the other hand, federal laws forbid cannabis and everything to do with it. The American federal government seldom makes statements on this imbalance between local and national legislation, but this is now changing.
Last week (22 augustus 2013) the lengthy silence of the federal government was broken when Josh Earnest, representative of the White House, released a statement on the abovementioned developments. This was in response to questions about Sanjay Gupta, the medical correspondent from CNN who recently completely reversed his opinion on cannabis and personally offered his apologies for misleading his public. Mr Earnest was asked if this development had any influence on President Obama’s standpoint on cannabis legislation. The representative clarified that the arrest of individual cannabis users, especially those with serious medical issues, has no priority. Click here for the complete statement.
Memo for all attorneys
On Thursday 29th August 2013 another important statement was made in favour of cannabis legalization in the U.S. The Department of Justice has made public a statement containing a memo from James Cole, who holds an important position in this department. The memo is aimed at federal (public) prosecutors, to let them know that it is not a priority for the federal government to block cannabis legislation in Washington and Colorado. Cole does state that cannabis vendors and shops must keep to a number of rules that are communicated in the memo. If the two states are unable to keep cannabis away from children, eliminate criminal cannabis gangs and prevent export to neighbouring states, the federal government will intervene as it has before.
Anyone studying the documents can conclude that the statement can be interpreted as a signal from the federal government to all states to decide their own cannabis policies. This is an enormous step forwards for a land that has played a huge part in international cannabis prohibition. Despite this, one should refrain from completely believing that the federal government is pulling back. Sadly it has been seen before that the government do not keep to their agreements. It is definitely a good signal, but only time will tell if this is really major progress for American cannabis legalization, or once again an empty promise from the federal government of the United States.