It’s easy both to understate and overstate the significance of the Justice Department’s announcement Thursday that it would not immediately challenge new regulations in Colorado and Washington that aim to legalize and tax the sale and recreational use of marijuana. It’s a bigger deal than you might think because the feds forewent litigation they surely would have won to block those voter-endorsed state initiatives. As a matter of constitutional law, the Obama Administration was (and still is) within its rights to argue that these state laws are preempted by federal law and policy.
But last week’s announcement is not nearly as big a deal as it could have been had the Obama Administration answered the many vital legal and political questions that still remain about marijuana’s quickening march toward respectability. All we know today that we didn’t know a week from today is that there will be no immediate litigation — that the Obama Administration is content, at least for now, to allow Colorado and Washington to come up with a way to safety regulate pot like alcohol and tobacco. Unfortunately, the feds didn’t even try to resolve the pot debate. They just agreed to let it unfold a little longer.
So many questions remain — for example, about the capital and credit that any industry needs to thrive. The Justice Department did nothing last week to offer any clarity to honest entrepreneurs in the burgeoning legal marijuana industry who are vexed by regulations that forbid banks from loaning money for ventures considered illegal under federal law. “Bankers are concerned they could be seen as having laundered money, aiding and abetting a crime,” Rep. Ed Perlmutter told Fox31 Denver last week. “Many financial institutions won’t provide financial services; consequently, it becomes an all-cash business. And when it’s all case, you’re subject to more robberies …”
– Read the entire article at The Atlantic.