LOS ANGELES – A top Justice Department official has told “60 Minutes” the federal government is ready to combat any “dangers” of state-sanctioned recreational pot, amid criticism of the Obama administration for its relative silence on legalization drives in three states.
Voters in Colorado, Washington state and Oregon are set to vote on Nov. 6 on whether to legalize and tax marijuana sales, raising the possibility of a showdown with the federal government, which views pot as an illegal narcotic.
Deputy Attorney General James Cole, in comments to “60 Minutes” posted on Saturday to the website of CBS affiliate KCNC-TV in Denver, said his office’s stance on pot would be “the same as it’s always been” if voters approved legalization.
“We’re going to take a look at whether or not there are dangers to the community from the sale of marijuana and we’re going to go after those dangers,” Cole told “60 Minutes” in an outtake from a report on Colorado’s medical marijuana industry due to air on Sunday, according to the CBS affiliate.
Cole’s statement is an indication the federal government, which has raided medical pot dispensaries in several of the 17 states that allow cannabis as medicine, could also take aim at state-sanctioned recreational marijuana.
It also represents a break with the Obama administration’s relative silence about the pot referendums, which has led to uncertainty about whether federal officials would stop states from taxing and regulating sales of pot in special stores to those 21 and older, as proposed under each of the three state initiatives before voters.
Representatives for the Justice Department did not return calls or emails seeking comment on Cole’s remarks.
A top legalization backer, however, dismissed them as “innocuous,” unlike the stance Attorney General Eric Holder took in 2010 just weeks before a failed California referendum to legalize pot.