By Michael Bielawski and Bruce Parker | Vermont Watchdog
MONTPELIER, Vt. – After passing marijuana legalization on Thursday, some Vermont senators denied they had just voted to nullify federal law.
Despite the ongoing push by states to legalize marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes, the drug remains a Schedule I substance prohibited by the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970.
That hasn’t stopped Vermont lawmakers from advancing S.241, a bill that would legalize recreational pot smoking and authorize the state to issue licenses to cannabis growers and retailers. When asked if passing the bill amounted to nullification of federal law, some senators said no.
“I don’t think so,” said state Sen. John Rodgers, D-Essex/Orleans. “Not with the Cole memo.”
Rodgers was referring to a 2013 memorandum the Obama Justice Department sent to states that had recently legalized marijuana. The memo, written by former U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole, says feds won’t raid states that allow “possession of small amounts of marijuana and provide for the regulation of marijuana production, processing, and sale.”
Concern about federal enforcement is legitimate. The Huffington Post reported that the Obama administration spends about $80 million annually fighting medical marijuana. However, as with other Obama administration efforts to bypass Congress or neuter federal law through non-enforcement, the Cole memo offers protection for states – at least until the next president takes office.