For some in Washington state's fledgling marijuana industry, last week's news from Washington, D.C., was a policy shift more nuanced than bold, more a flashing caution signal than a green light, reports the Seattle Times. The Department of Justice long-awaited statement on legalized weed in Washington and Colorado offered neither outright support nor opposition. Instead the four-page memo to federal prosecutors set boundaries on what the feds would tolerate from the two states creating recreational pot markets for adults.
The memo was clear that pot remains illegal under federal law. While the new federal direction might lead to profound changes in marijuana policy across the U.S., things on the ground in Washington state haven't changed dramatically. Final rules will be proposed tomorrow by state officials for a system that will allow adults to buy an ounce of weed in regulated stores. Those rules already contain many of the safeguards the feds are seeking: Don't sell or market to minors, don't evade taxes, don't divert pot to other states. Nothing in the federal memo compels resistant Washington cities to allow pot merchants within their borders. The reluctance of federally insured banks to touch legal pot money is still a major impediment, leaving a multibillion-dollar industry to deal only in cash. “That's absurd,” said Mark Kleiman, the state's pot consultant.