The deal, reports Time's Michael Scherer, is that marijuana remains illegal under federal law (even for medicinal purposes) and that state enforcement has been too inconsistent - in California and elsewhere - for prosecutors to sit idly by while recreational users get their supplies from neighborhood dispensaries. This, of course, is at odds with promises early in the Obama administration that the feds were not out to upend state marijuana laws. From Scherer:
There is broad agreement in the federal law enforcement community that self-described medical marijuana operations have been feeding the illegal recreational marijuana market, which President Obama has always opposed, despite his own admission of having used the drug in his youth. In Colorado, for instance, public school suspensions for drug use, mostly for pot, have been rising since the expansion of dispensaries, and there are some studies that show relatively high percentages of recreational users are getting their product from medical pot patients. At the same time, the Justice Department has seen evidence of a growing interstate trade of recreational marijuana, from Colorado and California in particular, which clearly raises a federal issue, and there is an ongoing problem of violent crime that tends to follow the pot business, given the amount of cash at play and the ease of reselling the product on the black market.
"The problem is that we have a drug policy that is broken," San Francisco's District Attorney George Garcón told me. "As a country we are being almost bipolar when it comes to drug policy." A former San Francisco Chief of Police, Garcón is critical of the recent crackdown by the Department of Justice, which he says will make it harder for local officials to do their job. But he also sees no real hope for resolving the conflict until state and federal politicians come together to deal with the conflicting laws. "You can't resolve this under the current legislative scheme," he told me. "What this really screams for a cohesive national policy." But there is no such policy on the horizon. Obama has shown little interest in elevating the issue.