”I was never a big fan of legalization,” Downey said, “but right now I think that’s the most logical way to end this drug war.”
On Thursday, the U.S. Justice Department seemed to agree.
In new guidelines sent to all 50 states, federal prosecutors have been told not to target marijuana users or marijuana businesses who are in compliance with state law.
What this announcement means for the 18 states - including California - that have already legalized marijuana for medical use, and for Washington and Colorado, which have legalized recreational use, is that each will be expected to establish and enforce strict regulations.
If any state fails to do so, the Justice Department - which has until now hindered, hectored and harangued any effort to establish a regulatory framework for decriminalized marijuana - will now move to block the state’s law.
The Justice Department further laid out eight federal priorities for prosecutors to weigh in future marijuana prosecutions: - Preventing marijuana distribution to minors - Preventing money from sales from going to criminal groups - Preventing the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal to states where it is illegal - Preventing criminal groups from using state laws as cover for trafficking of other illegal drugs - Preventing violence and the use of illegal firearms - Preventing drugged driving - Preventing the growing of marijuana on public lands - Preventing marijuana possession or use on federal property
While the announcement made clear that the feds still consider marijuana to be a Schedule I drug and that users, growers, and sellers may still find themselves subject to federal prosecution, we still welcome the news.
What’s the war on pot done for California? It’s overcrowded our prisons and jails, handed large swaths of our state parks over to the cartels, driven underground commerce that would have been legitimate had state law been allowed to take effect.
Here in Humboldt County, keeping pot illegal and unregulated means environmental devastation, poisoning of lands, streams and wildlife. Keeping pot illegal means robberies, home invasions, murders. It means broken families, shattered lives.
Some say marijuana is a gateway drug, and it’s true. Illegal pot is sold by some of the same people who will gladly offer you other black market drugs like coke, meth and heroin. Take marijuana off the black market and put it in the corner pharmacy, and suddenly, it’s a gateway drug to ... what? Bad beer? Snack food? Poor life decisions? Pain relief? Medicine?
There is a price to maintaining our national schizophrenia on pot. Humboldt County is paying it. Illegal marijuana may be fueling - at bare minimum - at least one-quarter of our economy, but the gains are not spread evenly, and the costs are breaking us.
Legalization can’t come soon enough.