Now that the people of Colorado and Washington State have voted to legalize marijuana the big question is how the federal government will response. In this potential upcoming fight the Washington Post has taken the side of voters in the two states. The editorial board is calling on the Obama administration to not heavily interfere with the new laws. From the Washington Post:
But it’s unrealistic and unwise to expect federal officials to pick up the slack left by state law- enforcement officers who used to enforce marijuana prohibitions against pot users and small-time growers. Unrealistic, because it would require lots more resources. Unwise, because filling prisons with users, each given a criminal stain on his or her record, has long been irrational. For the latter reason, we favor decriminalizing possession of small amounts of pot, assessing civil fines instead of locking people up. Also, for that reason and others, the Justice Department should hold its fire on a lawsuit challenging Colorado and Washington’s decision to behave more leniently. And state officials involved in good-faith efforts to regulate marijuana production and distribution according to state laws should be explicitly excused from federal targeting. . . .
For now, the federal government does not need to stage an aggressive intervention, one way or the other. It can wait, watch and enforce the most worrisome violations as they occur.
The Washington Post is the largest paper in the Washington D.C. area and is read by many federal officials and politicians. It is often viewed as the embodiment of centrist conventional Washington thinking. It asking the federal government to leave Colorado and Washington State alone shows how significantly the election changes the politics surrounding marijuana.
Since the election we have seen politicians and prominent organizations saying that although they don’t support the idea of marijuana legalization, they still believe the will of the electorate should be respected. The passage of the two initiatives has given marijuana legalization a legitimacy in Americans politics it has never enjoyed before.
Not long ago legalization was an idea that was mockingly dismissed. Now we have supporters and opponents saying voters at least deserve a chance to test the idea in our laboratories of democracy.