Colo., Wash. Face Showdown With Feds Over Legal Pot

New state measures fly in face of federal law

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 8, 2012 5:54 AM CST

(Newser) – Colorado and Washington state are now chill with citizens having a little pot—but the drug is still very much illegal in Uncle Sam's eyes, leaving states to chart a difficult path. When it comes to medical marijuana, the feds have tended to crack down on large operations and leave small, personal growers alone; that track record may offer a model for enforcement under the new laws. For its part, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency says its stance "remains unchanged," the New York Times notes. But “I don’t see DEA agents sweeping in ... and enforcing drug laws that were previously enforced by local agencies,” says a former Seattle police chief. "It would be extremely poor politics. The will of the people has been expressed.”

The new law could bring in $180 million in taxes and savings over three years, says a Colorado group: "We want to be a model for the rest of the country on how to do this right." Washington advocates similarly say pot shops could bring in $500 million to $600 million in taxes annually. But thorny issues remain, including how to establish bank accounts for a business that's federally banned, the Wall Street Journal notes. "This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through," says Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who the Denver Post reports has been in touch with US Attorney General Eric Holder regarding federal policy. "That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug, so don't break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly."

A medical marijuana plant is shown at the Northwest Patient Resource Center medical marijuana dispensary, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012, in Seattle.
A medical marijuana plant is shown at the Northwest Patient Resource Center medical marijuana dispensary, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012, in Seattle.   (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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