It's been a roller coaster ride for marijuana advocates when it comes to the first and second Obama Administrations, but today we are officially, basically, back to where we started in 2009 with Ogden Memo, sort of. Attorney General Eric Holder had a conference call today with the governors of Colorado and Washington to say that the federal government would not, as has been feared, be pursuing lawsuits to challenge those states' recently passed marijuana legalization statutes.

Furthermore, in states like California where medical marijuana is legal, the priorities around enforcement by the feds will focus only on violent activity and crime associated with the drug, and regulation issues like sales to minors. This was all laid out in a memo from Deputy Attorney General James Cole to federal prosecutors nationwide. The phrase they're using, with regard to state laws, is "trust but verify," and the sentiment echoes the "low priority" talk Holder used in the memo of four years ago that also went to prosecutors on this topic.

Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who's chair of the Judiciary Committee, said today that he believed that "these state laws should be respected. At a minimum, there should be guidance about enforcement from the federal government.”

The text of the memo from Cole says:

The Department's guidance in this memorandum rests on its expectation that states and local governments that have enacted laws authorizing marijuana-related conduct will implement strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems that will address the threat those state laws could pose to public safety, public health and other law enforcement interests. A system adequate to that task must not only contain robust controls and procedures on paper; it must also be effective in practice.

This news comes just a couple weeks after Holder announced an end to the decades-long War on Drugs, at least when it comes to prosecuting and sentencing drug offenders who are otherwise non-violent. And this comes two years after a crackdown by federal prosecutors on the medical marijuana industry statewide, which is San Francisco took the form of forced shutdowns of all pot clubs that were illegally (under state law) within 1,000 feet of schools or playgrounds.

The good news for the Bay Area dispensaries that remain open is that it looks like the harassment will be end so long as they a) don't sell to kids, and b) keep their noses clean and don't become hotbeds of criminal behavior.

Praise be. Is it 4:20 yet?


All medical marijuana coverage on SFist.