AG Eric Holder needs to fully explain the federal government's intentions regarding Colorado and Washington state's pot laws.
|U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. (Evan Vucci, The Associated Press)|
It turns out that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder hasn't been quite as mysterious about the future of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington state as his empty public pronouncements would suggest.
Behind the scenes with state officials, he's apparently been somewhat more forthright. Indeed, Gov. John Hickenlooper's top lawyer, Jack Finlaw, said this week that the federal government's future behavior — toward pot cultivation centers and retail outlets, for example — will be determined by the sort of regulatory framework that state lawmakers put in place.
As The Denver Post's John Ingold explained, "The state must show it can keep marijuana within its borders and away from children and also prove that its regulations are comprehensive enough and well-funded enough to work."
If they meet that standard, Finlaw added, "then [federal officials] will take the same stance on adult recreational use of marijuana as they've taken on medical marijuana."
As advocates of the federal government allowing Colorado and Washington to proceed with their important experiment in regulating marijuana, we consider this news encouraging. But it's also less than fully satisfying, for at least two reasons.
First of all, what does it mean precisely to adopt comprehensive regulations? The work from the governor's Amendment 64 Implementation Task Force, which went to the legislature this week, extends for 165 pages and involves 58 recommendations. By any reasonable standard, that's fairly comprehensive. But are those recommendations enough?
The proposals include everything from mandates for child-resistant packaging and prohibitions on advertising that children are likely to see to possibly limiting the amount of marijuana or marijuana-infused products that can be purchased by out-of-state customers — perhaps to one-eighth to one-quarter ounce of marijuana for non-residents.
But of course Colorado probably can't (and frankly shouldn't) prevent out-of-state residents from buying marijuana altogether, let alone seal state borders sufficiently to keep all home-grown pot here.
So how tight will the regulations have to be to trigger federal tolerance of Amendment 64?
The only person who can answer that question is Holder himself. More than four months after voters approved Amendment 64, it's time Holder stepped up and clearly explained, on the record, the Justice Department's intentions.
Still waiting for answers on pot - The Denver Post