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Obama Says Feds Will Not Go After Colorado and Washington Pot Laws

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Barbara Walters interviews President Barack Obama

Barbara Walters interviews President Barack Obama, photo courtesy ABC News.

In an interview this week with Barbara Walters, President Barack Obama said the federal government has no plans to go after Colorado and Washington, whose voters recently approved the recreational use of marijuana in those states. “We’ve got bigger fish to fry,” Obama said, as Amanda Sakuma reports for MSNBC. Questions remain about how the pot laws will affect driving safety.

Sakuma writes:

Some White House and Justice Department officials have indicated the administration was pursuing a strong legal stance against states like Washington and Colorado, where citizen-passed ballot initiatives legalizing marijuana have been enacted. But in the exclusive interview with Walters, Obama suggested that federal enforcement was not at the top of the administration’s to-do list.

‘It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it’s legal,’ he said.

A new Gallup poll finds that 64% of Americans polled said they were opposed to having the federal government enforce national anti-marijuana laws in states where pot is legal, Sakuma writes. She notes that here in Colorado, Amendment 64 to legalize the recreational use of marijuana out-performed the president by more than 50,000 votes.

With legalization of recreational pot (in addition to medicinal marijuana, which has been legal in Colorado since 2000), come concerns about people driving under the influence of pot and the risk of accidents. As Alex Ruiz writes for Northern Colorado 5 about Amendment 64’s implications for driving:

Now one part of this law that is under question is people driving under the influence or high on marijuana.

Amendment 64 says marijuana should be regulated like alcohol but can it be detected the same way?

State Trooper Nate Reid said there are some tell tale signs when someone is high, but the only way to be sure is through a blood test which can take up to 3 weeks questioning the portion of the law that says regulate it like alcohol.

Aurora Representative Rhonda Fields said she will co-sponsor legislation in January to regulate people driving under the influence of marijuana, William Breathes wrote in Denver Westword Blogs.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said that in 2009, one third of fatally injured drivers in the U.S. with known test results tested positive for drugs other than alcohol, as Gene Johnson and Kristen Wyatt reported for Associated Press in an article appearing in the Morning Sentinel.

With recreational marijuana being legal in Colorado, there are concerns that go beyond the state. Peter Baumann writes for the Laramie, Wyoming Boomerang that Wyoming officials are gearing up for an increase in stoned Colorado drivers on that state’s roads. He quotes Laramie Police Department Commander Mitchell Cushman:

I think that those driving areas like (Highway) 287 and I-25 corridors are going to become more increasingly dangerous,’ Cushman said. ‘It’s my belief — and if you look at some of the statistics, I know there’s conflicting information now. […] But there are other studies that are still coming out that basically say there is a problem with estimation of distances, there’s a problem with your ability to take in a large multi-level problem and then come up with a solution, which is what driving is.’

Anyone driving under the influence who is pulled over by Laramie police will likely be given a standard field sobriety test and then arrested, Cushman said. Many LPD officers are trained drug-recognition experts, meaning they can determine if a driver is operating under the influence of a wide variety of substances, including marijuana.


One Response to “Obama Says Feds Will Not Go After Colorado and Washington Pot Laws”


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