Critics say a ban would violate the state's voter-approved legalization of recreational marijuana, which took effect in January.
Washington state residents Kim Ridgway and Kimberly Bliss are planning to open a store selling marijuana, now that voters in that state have legalized the possession of up to one ounce for adults over 21.
But the married couple is afraid that any day now the federal government may decide to prosecute sellers of marijuana, because it remains illegal under federal law.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to say this week whether the Department of Justice plans to prosecute growers and sellers in states where pot is legal.
“As a person who is trying to start a business, I’m really concerned. A lot of what I’m doing is waiting to find out what his decision is before I go much further and want to invest too much more money or time into this,” Ridgway told Here & Now’s Robin Young.
State officials in Washington – and Colorado – are also waiting to hear what the federal government has to say, as they try to write new rules for growers and sellers of marijuana.
Ridgway is anxious to find out what the state regulations will be, including safety and liability rules.
“Somebody has to be the first one to get out there and want to do it,” said Ridgway, who uses medical marijuana to treat arthritis and anxiety. “I’ve chosen to be proactive with this – be one of the first to pioneer this. I’m sure that there’s going to be some really hard times ahead with the federal government and everybody involved.”
A United Nations-based drug agency has said the U.S. would be violating international treatises if the state laws are allowed to stand.
Former drug agency officials have asked the Obama administration to sue the states that have legalized recreational marijuana.
That’s the course of action that Seattle Times columnist Jonathan Martin predicts the federal government will actually take.
“The question folks like Kim are looking for is, is there going to be a clear bright line ‘We allow this’ or ‘We’re not going to allow this,’ or is there going to be sort of a fuzzy line, as was placed on medical marijuana? I just don’t think that we’re going to get the Justice Department saying ‘This is OK, this is not OK.”
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