Editorial: Feds should allow states to regulate recreational pot

Stay out of it.

That’s the message we have for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who could single-handedly kill Colorado’s billion-dollar recreational marijuana industry. Disturbing signs have been coming out of the Trump Administration recently, with spokesman Sean Spicer hinting of a possible crackdown, with the feds enforcing federal marijuana laws more vigorously.

Such a crackdown would run counter to candidate Donald Trump’s assertion that the matter should be left to the states.

Under President Obama, the feds took a largely hands-off approach, as long as growers and retailers remained in compliance with state laws. Though not perfect, some banking regulations were eased to enable marijuana companies to access the banking system.

Colorado and seven other states, as well as the District of Columbia, have legalized recreational marijuana, with more than half the states approving medical marijuana.

But marijuana remains illegal under federal law, allowing a pot-hating attorney general to wreak havoc industry.

Such an assault could have a devastating effect on a — ahem — growing industry. Otherwise law-abiding citizens who have worked hard to comply with state restrictions face being forced to shut down, along with financial ruin and possible jail time. Lost, too, would be the economic benefits of a sector that has filled vacant industrial and retail buildings, hired workers and spawned innovation in medicinal offerings and growing technologies.

Even Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who was no fan of legalization, believes that the power to regulate should remain with the states, where voters can decide on legalization.

Letting states control marijuana would be in keeping with conservative ideals of local control, and getting the federal government out of matters best left to state and local government.

Marijuana should be regulated. It should be kept away from children. It should be limited in terms of its cultivation and sale. Municipalities should be allowed to pass restrictive zoning of marijuana operations, or to ban them within their borders.

That’s how it is in Colorado, the first state to approve pot’s recreational use. And Colorado’s example of a well-regulated system — with problems addressed promptly through legislation — should be allowed to continue.

If Sessions does crack down on recreational pot, we urge Congress to limit the Justice Department’s ability to target recreational marijuana where it’s legal under state law, just as it’s done with the medicinal variety.


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