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Marijuana - No Federal Roadblocks

August 29, 2013  by  Jim Doherty
Category:  Marijuana

Marijuana - No Federal Roadblocks

On August 29th, the Obama administration, through Attorney General Eric Holder, made it clear that the federal government will not interfere with marijuana regulation in Washington and Colorado if it meets federal concerns over youth access, violence, diversion to other states, etc. See Memo to All United States Attorneys, re Guidance regarding Marijuana Enforcement, from James M. Cole, Deputy Attorney General, 08/29/2013. It appears that I-502 and the proposed state regulations are tailored to meet those concerns. So, how does this change things?

Many local government attorneys have been cautious in their advice because of the inherent conflict between federal and state marijuana laws. The federal clarification made today eliminates the possibility that local government officials and staff following state laws and regulations on marijuana will be subject to federal prosecution, which was never really a likely scenario.

For private attorneys advising individuals who want to start up marijuana businesses,  apply for state marijuana licenses, or sell/lease property to marijuana businesses, this is indeed big news. Now those attorneys can provide advice to clients without the risk of losing their license to practice law. This is a complex business and all those involved will now be able to obtain competent legal advice.

Some local government jurisdictions have been hesitant to adopt zoning for marijuana businesses because of the conflict with federal law. That impediment is seemingly now removed, so the land use process in those jurisdictions can proceed without that concern.

The federal fog has lifted, so it is time to move on with the city and county land use process!

MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

About Jim Doherty

Jim had over 24 years of experience researching and responding to varied legal questions at MRSC. He had special expertise in transmission pipeline planning issues, as well as the issues surrounding medical and recreational marijuana. He is now retired.



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