Dude, Where’s My Pardon?: Colorado’s Marijuana Law Raises Serious Legal Conundrums

Now that you can buy, sell and smoke pot under Colorado law, there are a few questions that remain to be answered, about basic concepts of liberty and fairness.

First, what shall become of the Americans who are serving prison time for what is now a legal thing to do, legal in the same jurisdiction in which they were prosecuted for it? It’s hard to swallow the idea that one American must spend a life, or a year, or even a day in prison for activity that another person is out freely enjoying. This is not, to be clear, about different jurisdictions having different criminal laws. It’s about one jurisdiction having two standards. And such is now the case not only in Colorado (where the new law provides no amnesty for past offenders), but also across the nation as a whole. The federal government has boldly stated a plan for selective prosecution: Coloradans won’t be targeted for prosecution, but neighboring Nebraskans will be.

Second, how can we tolerate the amorphous residuum of authority now held by federal prosecutors in Colorado?

Contrary to what many Coloradans might think, the U.S. Justice Department has not granted immunity for marijuana sales in Colorado. Far from it. The attorney general has simply issued a guidance memo to its regional prosecutors, advising them not to interfere with marijuana commerce as long it adheres to state law and meets certain other conditions. That memo includes a bold disclaimer saying that nothing in it “provides a legal defense to a violation of federal law.” And on the subject of marijuana, the U.S. attorney general has already shown that he will not act against federal prosecutors who defy his orders.

– Read the entire article at Salon.