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Feds Could Go After State-Approved Sales of Recreational Pot

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Cannabis Station, Denver, Colorado

Cannabis Station, Denver, Colorado.

If Colorado’s voters approve legalization of recreational marijuana on November 6, there could be a showdown with the federal government, U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole told CBS’ “60 Minutes.” In an outtake from the segment, “Medical Marijuana: Will Colorado’s ‘green rush’ last?,” that aired on Sunday night, Cole said, “We’re going to take a look at whether or not there are dangers to the community from the sale of marijuana and we’re going to go after those dangers,” as Alex Dobuzinskis reports for Reuters, in the Chicago Tribune.

Reuters writes that Cole’s statement suggests that the federal government, which has raided pot dispensaries in some of the 17 states that allow medical marijuana, could also go after its recreational use. Reuters goes on to say:

It also represents a break with the Obama administration’s relative silence about the pot referendums, which has led to uncertainty about whether federal officials would stop states from taxing and regulating sales of pot in special stores to those 21 and older, as proposed under each of the three state initiatives [including Washington and Oregon in addition to Colorado] before voters.

Representatives for the Justice Department did not return calls or emails seeking comment on Cole’s remarks.

A top legalization backer, however, dismissed them as “innocuous,” unlike the stance Attorney General Eric Holder took in 2010 just weeks before a failed California referendum to legalize pot.

In 2010, Reuters notes, Holder issued a strongly worded letter saying his office was against the California proposal and would “vigorously enforce” laws against the recreational pot business, even if California’s voters approved it.

Ethan Nadelmann, head of the Drug Policy Alliance, which has supported marijuana legalization, told Reuters, “Compared to what they did two years ago in California, to have their federal posture be essentially a wait-and-see approach is encouraging.”

So far, although polls indicate that Americans are leaning more and more towards legalizing recreational pot, no state has done so, Reuters writes.

In her Denver Post blog Ostrow Off the Record, Joanne Ostrow writes that Steve Kroft of “60 Minutes” noted during the segment that Colorado’s medical marijuana businesses have created jobs and helped the economy, partly through “pot tourism.” CBS reports that the market for new products is huge and Colorado’s entrepreneurs are developing all sorts of new product lines in which marijuana is an ingredient — such as sodas, peanut butter sandwiches, truffles, breath sprays, skin ointments — and some deliver the medical benefits of the drug without the high.

In one comment below the CBS article, “mj3c” writes:

People are learning to use marijuana as medicine while receiving NO psychotropic side effects of being ‘high’. Infused topical oils and juiced raw cannabis are just some examples. […]

Topical pain oil is an infused olive oil and small amounts of concentrated cannabis extracts with other added essential oils. There is no associated ‘high’ with administering cannabis as medicine in this manner. Applying just a couple drops to an ailing area can improve your quality of life dramatically.

The following testimonials are of people who are administering marijuana as medicine without the associated side effects of being ‘high’.–juicing-cannabis1.html

Ostrow gives some background on Kroft’s visits to Denver to gather material for “60 Minutes”:

Kroft and his producers did a round of interviews in Denver in April and have returned several times. The camera lingers on various shops and visits marijuana products firm Dixie Elixirs. No word on which THC-laced edibles the correspondent sampled.

As the most commonly used illegal drug in the U.S., Reuters notes, marijuana remains controversial. Pot legalization activists say that prohibition enriches drug cartels but fails to prevent its use; whereas opponents say legalization would endanger health and public safety.


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