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WASHINGTON, District of Columbia (AFP) – The White House has pledged to continue to jail those who traffic in marijuana or sell it to minors — even in two states where its recreational use is now legal.

At a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Deputy Attorney General James Cole defended the federal decision not to challenge new laws legalizing marijuana in Colorado and Washington, approved by voters in November 2012.

Those laws clash with federal laws which classify marijuana as a Schedule One controlled substance, on par with heroin.

The administration has been criticized in some quarters for taking a hands-off position to prosecuting pot users in the two states since the passage of the laws legalizing cannabis.

Coles vowed however that the federal government would continue to go after those seeking to profit from selling marijuana, or those who would seek to traffic the drug to children.

“We’re not giving impunity” to drug traffickers, he insisted.

Cole pledged that in addition to blocking cannabis cultivation and distribution, authorities would work to prevent the export of marijuana to places where the substance is still illegal, “whether the state has legalized it or not.”

And he added that Justice Department officials “reserve the right… to challenge the state laws at a later time.”

So far, 21 states have authorized the use of cannabis for medical purposes. Of these, 16 states have decriminalized possession of the drug in small quantities for personal use.

Colorado and Washington went even further, legalizing recreational consumption of the drug. Colorado even allows limited at-home cultivation of the plants.

Drug policy expert Kevin Sabet — a former official in the administrations of presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush — said legalizing pot was dangerous, because it could lead to the “creation of a Starbucks of marijuana.”

“Why would we open the floodgates?” he asked.

But John Urquhart, a sheriff in Washington, denied that that west coast state was going to become a drug haven.

“What we have in Washington is not the wild, wild West,” he said, adding he doesn’t see a “conflict” between the federal and state laws.

“We all agree we don’t want our children using marijuana. We all agree we don’t want impaired drivers. We all agree we don’t want to continue enriching criminals,” he said.

“Washington’s law honors these values by separating consumers from gangs,” he said.

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Stacey Abrams

Photo by Biden For President is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

File this under asked and answered. Former Georgia House minority leader and voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams trended much of the day on Wednesday after Republican Sen. John Kennedy questioned whether she thought a restrictive voting bill signed into law last month is racist. "I think there are provisions of it that are racist, yes," the former Georgia gubernatorial candidate answered. Abrams was speaking during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on voting rights on Tuesday when Kennedy made the mistake of asking her for a list of the provisions she objects to in the Georgia legislation.

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