Washington State’s U.S. Senators, along with five members of the state’s delegation to the House of Representatives, all Democrats, have requested U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to announce the federal government’s position on Washington State’s and Colorado’s legalization of marijuana as soon as possible.  In a letter to Mr. Holder dated June 17, 2013, the lawmakers asked the Attorney General to “exercise [his] significant discretionary authority by choosing not to pursue preemption of these laws, or prosecute . . . residents and state employees acting in compliance with these state laws.”

The lawmakers further asserted that both Washington and Colorado already have invested significant resources in the regulatory and taxation systems necessary to legalize marijuana, which is expected to generate new jobs and tax revenue for both states.  The lawmakers also want to ensure that citizens will not be penalized by the federal government for activities that are legal under state laws.

Marijuana remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act.  Despite federal illegality, both Colorado and Washington passed marijuana legalization laws in November 2012.  See our website articles for further details about these laws: Implications of Marijuana Legalization For Washington Employers, 11.9.2012, and Employers’ Anti-Drug Policies Remain Enforceable Under Colorado’s Marijuana Regulation Act, 11.12.2012.

The Obama Administration has yet to announce its position on the legalization of marijuana.  However, the website of the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy states

“The Administration opposes drug legalization. Legalization threatens public health by increasing availability of drugs and undermining prevention activities. It also hinders recovery efforts and poses a significant health and safety risk to all Americans, especially our youth. Marijuana is a harmful drug and its use should be prevented and treated – not promoted. Outside the context of Federally approved research, the use and distribution of marijuana is prohibited in the United States.”