The Justice Department announced Thursday that it would not interfere with state laws legalizing recreational marijuana.
Colorado and Washington legalized recreational marijuana use in November 2012. The Justice Department could have sued the two states to prevent the laws from taking effect, because marijuana is still illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Instead, the Obama administration decided to give them room to experiment with recreational use legislation, within limits. Colorado and Washington will still be required to have regulatory systems in place to enforce eight areas, including distribution to minors, driving under the influence, trafficking by gangs.
The Obama administration has been deliberating for almost a year about how to handle the growing movement to legalize marijuana. Younger voters between the ages of 18 and 44 are driving the movement, exemplified in exit polls from the Colorado and Washington amendment votes. President Obama said in December, “It does not make sense, from a prioritization point of view, for us to focus on recreational drug users in a state that has already said that’s legal”.