Marijuana is not legal under federal law, but no federal entity has intervened in state legalization measures so far. In the immediate aftermath of the first legalization measures, President Obama said that he has “bigger fish to fry” than cracking down on the marijuana industry. The following year, his administration released a memo stating that the Department of Justice wouldn’t challenge state laws on marijuana legalization as long as they adhere to a set of strict rules regarding the sale and distribution of the drug, such as ensuring minors don’t have access to it.
Recently, Attorney General Eric Holder expressed optimism about Washington and Colorado’s paths. But the legalization of recreational marijuana in the nation’s capital on Tuesday brings the conflict between local and federal law into full view of federal lawmakers and could prompt congressional action.