Gut Check: Making simple sense out of life
By Lenore Skomal Erie Times-News staff blogger
Lenore Skomal is an award-winning author and veteran journalist in all forms of media. She is a weekly columnist and daily blogger for the Erie Times-News. She’s authored 17 published books, including an anthology of her columns, Burnt Toast available on her website   Read more about this blog.
Posted: November 13th, 2012
Colorado and Washington legalize marijuana. What’s next?

It might come down to a state versus federal government feud. The real fight is over whether a state can license and tax a business that is explicitly breaking U.S. narcotics law.

Colorado and Washington states both legalized the recreational use of marijuana on Election Day. However, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration still classifies marijuana as a schedule I drug: the most restrictive classification, reserved drugs with a high potential for abuse and no accepted medicinal value.

Governor Brown has already fired off a warning salvo to the Obama administration, telling it to back off and let the states decide their own laws.

This could go two ways in the likely event the administration doesn’t just ignore the laws: two lawsuits agains the individual states or federal agents enforcing federal laws, proving that federal trumps state every time, according to a former head of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The sticking points are the provisions in the new laws, “since they not only explicitly authorize citizens to use pot for recreational purposes, they demand state involvement, with provisions for regulating, taxing and licensing marijuana growers and retailers — creating systems where the drug can be sold just like alcohol.”

Because of the language of the laws, experts predict that the federal government can’t ignore the state initiatives, but it also can’t make a state change its own law. It can, however, say the state does not have the authority to set up a regulatory environment. The other option is to use the IRS for enforcement, since the federal government could seize all of the tax revenue that Washington and Colorado collect off marijuana sales.

But will the federal government ignore the will of the voters in those two states? Only time will tell.

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