Article by Sam Kamin, The Hill
In an election night of seismic shocks, one electoral trend held true to form Election Night: Marijuana law reform continued to win with voters.
With California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts legalizing marijuana last week, eight states, including the entire West Coast, have now joined the District of Columbia in making marijuana possession and use legal for all adults.
These states join the 28 states (plus D.C.) now permitting the medical use of cannabis, meaning that a growing majority of states now permit at least some form of marijuana consumption by adults.
The states voting to legalize marijuana Tuesday night will find a complicated legal landscape ahead of them. Even as an increasing number of states are moving away from marijuana prohibition, marijuana remains a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act. This means that, at least, in theory, everyone producing, selling, or consuming it remains subject to arrest, asset forfeiture, conviction, and long terms in prison even if they are acting in compliance with their own states’ laws.
President Obama dealt with this tension — the states are increasingly legalizing that which the federal government continues to criminalize — by formulating a policy of deference with regard to state marijuana law reform.
His Justice Department pledged not to enforce federal criminal laws against those complying with robust state marijuana regulations that met federal priorities regarding access by minors, the participation of organized crime, the diversion of marijuana out of state, and other societal harms.
While this use of enforcement discretion was welcome news to those in law reform states, it was hardly a solution to the federal-state tension over marijuana law.