November 8, 2012

Washington, Colorado legalize pot

The states have about a year to devise rules for their new systems, which could draw federal wrath.

Kristen Wyatt / The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

Jake Dimmock
click image to enlarge

Jake Dimmock, co-owner of the Northwest Patient Resource Center medical marijuana dispensary, prepares medical marijuana for distribution to patients last month in Seattle. Washington voters on Tuesday approved a measure to let adults over 21 buy taxed, inspected marijuana at state-licensed shops.

The Associated Press

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STATES' WEED APPROVAL HAS MEXICO RETHINKING APPROACH TO SMUGGLING

MEXICO CITY - The legalization of recreational marijuana in the U.S. states of Washington and Colorado will force Mexico to rethink its efforts to halt marijuana smuggling across the border, the main adviser to Mexico's president-elect said Wednesday.

Luis Videgaray, head of incoming President Enrique Pena Nieto's transition team, told Radio Formula that the Mexican administration taking power in three weeks remains opposed to drug legalization. But he said the votes in the two states complicate his country's commitment to quashing the growing and smuggling of a plant now seen by many as legal in part of the U.S.

"Obviously we can't handle a product that is illegal in Mexico, trying to stop its transfer to the United States, when in the United States, at least in part of the United States, it now has a different status," Videgaray said. "I believe this obliges us to think about the relationship in regards to security ... This is an unforeseen element."

Videgaray stopped short of threatening to curtail Mexican enforcement of marijuana laws, but his comments, less than three weeks before Pena Nieto travels to the White House days before taking office, appeared likely to increase pressure on the Obama administration to strictly enforce U.S. federal law, which still forbids recreational pot use.

"These important modifications change somewhat the rules of the game in the relationship with the United States," Videgaray said. "I think that we have to carry out a review of our joint policies in regards to drug trafficking and security in general."

-- The Associated Press

The Justice Department says it is evaluating the measures. When California was considering legalization in 2010, Attorney General Eric Holder said it would be a "significant impediment" to joint federal and local efforts to combat drug traffickers.

Federal agents have cracked down on medical pot dispensaries in states where it is legal, including California and Washington. Individual pot users may not be immediately impacted, as authorities have long focused on dismantling trafficking operations.

Peter Bensinger, administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration from 1976 to 1981, and other former DEA heads urged Holder to make more noise this year about the pot votes. Colorado was a critical state for President Obama's re-election.

Now, he said, "I can't see the Justice Department doing anything other than enforce the law. There's no other out."

Brian Smith of the Washington State Liquor Control Board, which will implement the new law, said officials are waiting anxiously to find out what federal law enforcement authorities plan to do. "They have been silent," Smith said.

Both states will have about a year to come up with rules for their legal pot systems.

In Mexico, which produces much of the pot that gets into the U.S. and where cartels and the government are embroiled in a yearslong deadly battle, egaray told Radio Formula.

a former high-ranking official said he was optimistic that the measures would damage the country's drug cartels, possibly cutting profits from $6 billion to $4.6 billion.

Alejandro Hope, now an analyst at the think tank Mexican Competitiveness Institute, a complicating factor could be whether a strong U.S. crackdown on legal pot could negate most of the effects on the cartels.

In Seattle, John Davis, a medical marijuana provider, called passage of the state's measure "a significant movement in the right direction." But he said he expected some confrontation with federal authorities.

"This law does not prevent conflicts," he said, adding that its passage "will highlight the necessity to find some kind of resolution between state and federal laws."

 

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