WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
30 Aug 2013 | News

Legal Marijuana: Obama Administration Gives Green Light to Colorado and Washington

Press Release
August 30, 2013

Washington, D.C.—The U.S. Justice Department’s new guidance on federal marijuana enforcement priorities clears the way for Colorado and Washington state to pursue the legalized, regulatory approaches to marijuana that voters approved by wide margins in November 2012 ballot initiatives. This is a welcome step that provides an enormous opportunity for learning about how to improve our drug policies, according to the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).

Yesterday's announcement ended months of uncertainty about the Obama administration’s response to the states’ legalization plans. “The federal decision not to intervene in states that have decided to regulate marijuana will reverberate far beyond U.S. borders, particularly in Latin America,”said John Walsh, WOLA Senior Associate for Drug Policy.

Last November’s Colorado and Washington votes helped put wind in the sails of Latin American consideration of alternatives to marijuana prohibition, most visibly in Uruguay, where in July the House of Representatives approved a bill to legalize and regulate that country’s marijuana market.

By alleviating concerns about whether Colorado and Washington would in fact be able to proceed with their regulatory approaches, the new Justice Department guidance provides a further boost to consideration of similar approaches in other U.S. states and in other countries.

“The United States—architect and major proponent of the prohibitionist UN drug control treaties—is rightly choosing not to block the state-level implementation of legal, regulated marijuana markets,” according to WOLA drug policy expert John Walsh. “As a result, other innovating countries, beginning with Uruguay, will now enjoy greater political space to pursue similar legalization proposals of their own.”

For more analysis of the significance of the new Justice Department guidance, please contact:

Kristel Mucino                                                                                      
WOLA Communications Director
Office: +1 (202) 797-2171
Cell: +1 (617) 584-1713

John Walsh
WOLA Senior Associate
Office: +1 (202) 797-2171
Cell: +1 (202) 213-4863