It's now been approximately five months since voters approved Amendment 64, which allows adults 21 and over in Colorado to use and possess small amounts of marijuana. Moreover, almost four months have passed since John Hickenlooper signed it into law, and four weeks-plus since U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said a decision about a federal response would be announced soon.
No wonder a major political news source is wondering just when "soon" might be.
Today, Talking Points Memo published an item entitled "President Obama's Marijuana Problem." Writing about A64 and a similar measure approved this past November in Washington state, reporter Hunter Walker writes:
Neither state's new legalization laws have fully taken effect yet. In both Colorado and Washington lawmakers are currently working to decide precisely how to regulate and implement the sale of marijuana for recreational use. If the government allows this process to proceed, pro-pot activists believe it will open the floodgates for a slew of new marijuana reform laws in other states where reluctant officials are waiting to see how the federal government will handle the issue. Thus far, though, the White House and Holder's Department of Justice have not indicated how they will handle the legalization laws.
True enough -- but other aspects of the TPM piece are more suspect. For instance, the article says that "officials from both Washington and Colorado met with Holder in recent weeks to discuss how the legalization policies are being implemented in their respective states and to ask for guidance from the federal government."
If that was accurate, it would indicate some significant movement on the feds' part. But Carolyn Tyler, spokeswoman for Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, who's quoted in the TPM piece, says no such face-to-face meeting has taken place. Indeed, the main contact between Holder and local decision-makers remains a post-election November conference call that also included Hickenlooper. Afterward, Hickenlooper's office characterized the content of the conversation like so:
Governor John Hickenlooper and Attorney General John Suthers talked to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder by phone.... They emphasized the need for the federal government to articulate what its position will be related to Amendment 64. Everyone shared a sense of urgency and agreed to continue talking about the issue.
Whether the term "urgency" can still be applied to the Justice Department nearly half a year later is debatable.
"We certainly had hoped to have guidance as early as possible," Tyler acknowledges. But when she's asked if the AG is frustrated that the feds still haven't weighed in, she replies, "We're continuing to precede. As you know, the state is going about the work of implementing the will of the people on this.
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"We were represented on the Amendment 64 task force," she adds. "That report is now at the legislature. At this point, we're waiting for legislative activity."
Suthers and company are waiting on Holder, too -- and with each passing day, the meaning of "soon" is further refined. But the more articles like the latest from Talking Points Memo that appear, the more the pressure on the Obama administration grows to finally make its intentions known.
More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana: Eric Holder says fed response to Colorado law coming soon."