Under federal law, Uncle Sam could try to block marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado. But there's another option: President Obama could pull the US out of the marijuana wars.
Colin Diltz/The Seattle Times/AP
With half or more Americans now favoring legalizing marijuana, President Obama has one bold option that few experts are talking about: Raising the white flag and ending the federal war on pot.
To be sure, many legal experts believe the US Department of Justice instead is preparing to block new regulatory schemes passed by voters last month in Washington and Colorado that legalize and regulate the selling, possession, and use of marijuana. One option is to invoke Article 6 of the Constitution, which says federal law is "the supreme law of the land."
But despite the constraints of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act in which Congress cemented its stance that marijuana is highly dangerous and has no legitimate medical use, the Obama administration does have legal authority to relabel marijuana as either a less dangerous drug or, as Washington and Colorado have done, classify it alongside alcohol as a legal drug. Such a move could partially or wholly end federal marijuana oversight.
"Maybe this will be the moment when the feds are prepared to revisit marijuana prohibition," says Josh Meisel, co-director of the Humboldt Institute for Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research in California. "At the federal level … I could see a scenario of marijuana regulation" ending.
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