U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder
  • United States Dept. of Justice
  • U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder still reviewing legal pot

At a meeting of state attorneys general on Tuesday, US Attorney General Eric Holder was asked by Colorado's AG when they can expect an answer on the citizen-enacted legal pot thing. Politico reports that Holder responded thus:

"We’re still in the process of reviewing both of the initiatives that were passed. I would say, and I mean this, that you’ll hear soon. We are, I think, in our last stages of that review, and are trying to make a determination as to what the policy ramifications are going to be, what our international obligations are. There are a whole variety of things that go into this determination. But the people in [Colorado] and Washington deserve that answer and we will have that, as I said, relatively soon."

Intriguing to me is the statement about "policy ramifications" and "international obligations." Our primary international pot obligations stem from the UN Single Convention Treaty which regulates cannabis cultivation exactly as it does opium cultivation.

The treaty requires parties to designate government agencies—like the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board—to oversee cannabis production. One seemingly unworkable section requires these agencies to take physical control of all the pot and be responsible for any wholesale trading. Other than that, it seems like the cannabis regulatory system enacted by Washington State voters may comport with international law.

Colorado's law, which allows anyone to grow six pot plants without license, almost certainly does not comply with the UN requirement that cultivation must be licensed. But the commercial part of their law, which licenses growers through the state Department of Revenue, might fit within the Single Convention treaty's framework.

So what does Eric Holder's marijuana-inspired mumbling mean? Are the feds going to crack down on voter-enacted legal pot because of international obligations? Or are they going to find a way to comply with a treaty that requires cannabis production to be regulated quite similarly to Washington State law? Perhaps they will take a middle route, leaving alone the licensed systems but challenging the portions of Colorado's law that allow for unlicensed production?