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Marijuana possession not a priority for federal prosecutors

Most people in Herber Springs are aware that marijuana is illegal in Arkansas, but it seems the federal government is changing its priorities slightly when it comes to this contraband substance. Although there is nothing preventing state law enforcement for prosecuting individuals for possession of marijuana, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder recently announced that federal prosecutors are no longer to focus on individual marijuana users.

There have been signals from the Obama administration that the decades-long war on drugs is wrapping up, including comments by Holder eralier in August about trying to move away from imprisoning nonviolent drug offenders. Instead of just throwing drug users in prison, Obama prefers rehabilitating offenders. Though Holder's most recent announcement is only one step in ending the war on drugs, it is a big move.

The statement started as a set of guidelines that would apply in Colorado and Washington, the only states to legalize small amounts of marijuana for personal use, but Holder noted that they would apply to all states. The guidelines will also greatly impact the states that have legalized medical marijuana.

Granted, the federal government's move may have very little impact on how Arkansas law enforcement enforces its ban on marijuana. State, county and city police may still arrest and charge individuals with Arkansas possession. These charges can come with serious consequences, including fines, time in jail, and untold damage to a personal and professional reputation.

How this change in federal policy will affect state drug enforcement remains to be seen, but it may indicate a slow decline in the knee-jerk reaction to jail drug offenders.

Source: National Public Radio, "Federal Prosecutors Told Not To Focus On Marijuana Users," Mark Memmott, Aug. 29, 2013

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