Opponents of marijuana legalization in California criticized the Obama administration's announcement Thursday not to interfere with state laws permitting recreational use of cannabis.
"Decades from now, the Obama administration will be remembered for undoing years of progress in reducing youth drug use in America," Dr. Paul R. Chabot of the Coalition for a Drug Free California said in a statement.
"This president will be remembered for many failures, but none as large as this one, which will lead to massive youth drug use, destruction of community values, increased addiction and crime rates," he continued.
Scott Chipman, Southern California co-chair of the group Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana, said the stand "is another mixed message from this administration regarding U.S. drug policy when what is needed is clear messages that drug use, including marijuana use, is harmful to public health, public safety and society at large."
Meanwhile, marijuana advocates in California and elsewhere cheered the decision from the Justice Department.
In addition to saying it will not seek to block new state laws in Colorado and Washington that legalize the recreational use of marijuana, the administration also said it will not bring federal prosecutions against dispensaries or businesses that sell small amounts of marijuana to adults.
A department official stressed, however, that marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and that U.S. prosecutors will continue to aggressively enforce the law against those who sell marijuana to minors or to criminal gangs that are involved in drug trafficking.
Also under the new guidelines, a marijuana dispensary will not be targeted by federal prosecutors based on its size or its volume alone, an official said.
That change could have an immediate effect in states where medical marijuana is legal under state law.
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