Justice Department Needs Better Plan on State Marijuana Laws, GAO Says

 In Legalization, News

The Justice Department does not have a clear and consistent policy for deciding when to enforce federal drug laws against people who are operating in accordance with state marijuana legalization programs, Congress’s watchdog agency finds in a new report.

In August 2013 the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a memo directing U.S. attorneys to generally respect state marijuana laws and not target people following those policies unless one of eight identified federal enforcement priorities were triggered. The directive describes how federal prosecutors should avoid interfering with state marijuana programs unless there is evidence that the drug is ending up in the hands of children, being distributed across state lines, contributing to increased impaired driving or violence, among other priorities.

But DOJ officials “have not documented their monitoring process or provided specificity about key aspects of it, including potential limitations of the data they report using and how they will use the data to identify states that are not effectively protecting federal enforcement priorities,” the Government Accountability Office (GAO) wrote in the 50-page report released Monday. “Given the growing number of states legalizing marijuana, it is important for DOJ to have a clear plan for how it will be monitoring the effects of state marijuana legalization relative to DOJ marijuana enforcement guidance.”

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