It's been almost three weeks since Washington voters passed Initiative 502 and set the stage for the Dec. 6 legalization of recreational pot use for adults. Soon, those over 21 years of age and so inclined will be allowed to possess up to an ounce of pot without fear that local police will swoop in with handcuffs.
*See Also: Want Teens Off Weed? Legalize It
But what about the feds? How will they react, seeing as marijuana's status as an illegal drug hasn't changed in their eyes? While we're still waiting to learn the answer to that question (both here and in Colorado), the Washington Post's editorial board weighed in on the subject in an opinion piece published online yesterday afternoon.
What does the Washington Post recommend for the feds?
Basically, playing it cool.
From the Washington Post:
... the states' leaders are asking for guidance from President Obama's Justice Department, which, NPR's Carrie Johnson reports, has a few options. It could enhance its own anti-marijuana enforcement in the states. It could sue to halt the laws' application.
Or the Justice Department could keep its hands off, perhaps continuing the approach the feds have largely taken for some time -- focusing scarce resources on major violators, such as big growers that might serve multi-state markets, cultivators using public lands or dispensaries near schools. The last option is clearly best.
It's worth noting, the bigwigs that man the Washington Post's editorial board didn't go full stoner here. They note the possible public health risks of legalized weed - stoned driving seeming to be the biggest, in their opinion - and point out the effect that a nationwide end to marijuana prohibition could have on US-Mexico relations. They write, "It could be that these states are harbingers of a slow, national reassessment of marijuana policy. Or their experiment could serve as warning for the other 48 states."
But at the end of the day, just like Washington and Colorado voters, the Washington Post acknowledges the obvious: that locking up people for small-time marijuana offenses just doesn't make any damn sense.
More from the Washington Post:
... 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.
Read the full piece here.