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But who exactly determines what compliance at the state level means is still a contentious question. California, for example, does not have an agency similar to its department of Alcoholic Beverage Control that focuses on marijuana. As a result, it has been up to the courts, city governments and local law enforcement to determine who is following the state law and who is not.
On Oct. 9, attorneys for the city of Fresno, Calif., obtained a restraining order to force the closure of nine pot clubs for violating zoning laws that require them to comply with both state and federal laws, an essentially impossible requirement since the U.S. government classifies pot as an illegal narcotic.
Assistant City Attorney Doug Sloan said the Justice memo would not inhibit Fresno's ongoing effort to keep out medical marijuana dispensaries.
"The memo expressly says this doesn't legalize marijuana," Sloan said. "Until federal law changes, and right now marijuana is a Class 1 controlled substance, it will still be prohibited."
In Colorado, where voters allowed the use of small amounts of marijuana for medical reasons, there are no statewide rules regulating the increasing numbers of dispensaries and cities have taken to regulating them on their own. For the new federal policy to have any effect, lawmakers need to create the regulations, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers said.
Patrons at a dispensary in San Francisco said they hoped the new policy would lift the stigma surrounding pot.
But they refused to give their names, saying they would not trust the federal government until marijuana was made completely legal.
On the Net:
Justice Department memo on medical marijuana: http://blogs.usdoj.gov/blog/archives/192
Drug Enforcement Administration: http://www.usdoj.gov/dea/
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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