Rather than file a lawsuit that could potentially block the action, the United States Department of Justice has decided to let the states of Colorado and Washington legalize recreational marijuana use. This could be the first major step toward widespread legalization of recreational marijuana use throughout the country.
Instead of trying to prevent recreational use of the drug altogether, the Department of Justice will focus on preventing distribution to minors and keeping marijuana revenue out of the hands of illegal syndicates. They are also concerned about state-authorized marijuana activity serving as a front for trafficking other drugs that are still illegal.
Marijuana regulations go as far back as 1619 and recreational use has been banned in all states since the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 was passed into law. This act made an exception for medicinal use but imposed a tax on authorized distributors. However, the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 classified marijuana as a Schedule I drug, claiming that cannabis has a high potential for abuse and no medicinal value.
Over 30 years ago, Attorney Michael Hupy argued in a court of law that marijuana was misclassified as a Schedule I drug. Back in 1982, Attorney Hupy defended two people who were caught with 3,300 pounds of marijuana and needed to prove that marijuana was misclassified as a Schedule I drug.
By calling in expert witnesses, Attorney Hupy demonstrated that marijuana does in fact have medicinal value and doesn’t belong in the same class as drugs like LSD, heroin and ecstasy. The mountain of evidence forced the State of Wisconsin to drop all charges.
Even though Attorney Hupy successfully proved that marijuana was misclassified, neither the state of Wisconsin nor the federal government has corrected the mistake. Three decades have since passed and Illinois recently became the 19th state to legalize marijuana for medicinal use, reaffirming what Attorney Hupy has been saying all along.
But Colorado and Washington have taken it a step further by legalizing recreational use, which could set the stage for other states to follow suit. Alaska plans on taking a vote next year and others will do so in 2016.