Deputy Attorney General James Cole

In an important admission, the Department of Justice acknowledged that at least under certain circumstances it considers a well-regulated marijuana industry preferable to the black market.

During a Senate hearing today on marijuana policy Deputy Attorney General James Cole explained why the Department of Justice decided not to sue Colorado and Washington State to preempt their new marijuana legalization laws.

Cole said that the federal government probably could not sue to stopped the provision that legalized personal marijuana possession and use for adults. Any preemption lawsuit would likely have only stopped the provision which required the states to implement a regulated market for the sale of cannabis.

Cannabis will basically be legal for individuals, so people would either buy it from state-regulated businesses that pay taxes or a black market. This left the DOJ with “no perfect solutions,” but they decided a well-regulated market is clearly the better option.

Cole said suing to block just the implementation of the regulated market would simply result in “money going into organized criminal enterprises instead of going into state tax coffers.”

While it might seem like a small admission by Cole regarding just two states, it is proof that the marijuana reform movement is starting to win the policy debate even among federal agencies.

Photo via DOJ