Dept. of Justice Won't Interfere in State Laws Legalizing Marijuana

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Alexandra Ringe, 212-549-2666, media@aclu.org

Dept. of Justice Won't Interfere in State Laws Legalizing Marijuana

Critical Support for Sensible Drug Laws

NEW YORK - Today U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder made clear that the Department of Justice would not interfere with states that legalize and strictly regulate marijuana use and possession for adults. The Department of Justice issued a policy guidance today in furtherance of this approach, directing U.S. attorneys not to interfere with marijuana activities that are legal under state law and do not implicate a specified list of DOJ enforcement priorities.

Ezekiel Edwards, director of the ACLU's Criminal Law Reform Project, said, "This guidance is one more concrete step towards more sensible drug policy in this country.

"We support the attorney general's decision not to interfere with individuals and entities that are complying with state marijuana laws, thereby respecting states' voter-approved and common-sense approaches to regulating marijuana," Edwards continued. "As the DOJ guidance makes clear, if states and local governments that have enacted laws legalizing marijuana create strong and effective regulatory systems, the federal government will defer to them to enforce those systems."

The DOJ guidance explicitly applies to all future federal enforcement activity, including civil enforcement and criminal investigations and prosecutions.

Edwards stressed, "It is incumbent on the DOJ to monitor implementation of its non-interference policy to ensure that U.S. attorneys' decisions are aligned with DOJ objectives, including that prosecutors should not consider the size or commercial nature of a marijuana operation dispositive in determining whether there is federal enforcement interest."

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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