U.S. Rep. Adam Smith and 17 other U.S. Congress members formally asked the Department of Justice and Drug Enforcement Administration not to enforce federal drug laws against marijuana use in Washington and Colorado in a letter released Friday.
Though both states have made regulated, recreational use of marijuana legal, federal agencies still have the power to enforce a federal ban on the drug.
“We believe that it would be a mistake for the federal government to focus enforcement action on individuals whose actions are in compliance with state law,” says the letter addressed to Attorney General Eric Holder and Drug Enforcement Administrator Michele Leonhart.
According to the letter, the Department of Justice made assurances in 2009 that it would not prioritize criminal charges against those who are in compliance with state law. But the Congress members are concerned about whether those assurances still stand.
The letter then goes on to ask federal drug law enforcers to allow states such as Washington and Colorado to be “laboratories of democracy” that help progress drug policy nationwide.
“These states have chosen to move from a drug policy that spends millions of dollars turning ordinary Americans into criminals toward one that will tightly regulate the use of marijuana while raising tax revenue to support cash-strapped state and local governments,” the letter says. “We believe this approach embraces the goals of existing federal marijuana law: to stop international trafficking, deter domestic organized criminal organizations, stop violence associated with the drug trade and protect children.”