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Maricopa County attorney wants feds to reverse recreational marijuana laws

In this Dec. 31, 2012 file photo, Rachel Schaefer, of Denver, smokes marijuana on the official opening night of Club 64, a marijuana-specific social club, where a New Year's Eve party was held in Denver. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)

PHOENIX — The top prosecutor for Maricopa County wants the federal government to crack down on nationwide marijuana laws and reverse all recreational marijuana policies established in the states.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said he believes states should comply with federal law when it comes to marijuana legalization. Under the federal Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is classified as an illegal and highly-addictive drug with no medical value.

In Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Washington, D.C., those who are over the age of 21 can legally smoke marijuana without possessing a medical card. (Currently, 28 states and D.C. have also legalized medicinal marijuana.)

But Montgomery argued that reversing recreational marijuana laws will help establish respect for the “rule of law.”

“If [the states] don’t like the way a law is being administered, or if they don’t like a law that’s on the books…change the law,” Montgomery said. “I don’t run around from state to state and states to pass laws that are violation of federal law.”

Even though some states have legalized recreational or medicinal marijuana for years, Montgomery said it is still possible to put the toothpaste back in the tube by enforcing “federal law in a consistent and fair manner.”

“Get the people to do what they’re supposed to do within our system of government,” he added.

Montgomery’s stance on marijuana laws aligns closely with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has hinted that his department is leaning toward engaging in a second war on drugs.

However, the federal government would still need to rely on the help of local law enforcement to enforce any kind of comprehensive crackdown on marijuana. That means the growing number of states that have legalized marijuana for recreational or medicinal use would have to be on board.

It’s certainly going to take time, Montgomery said, but it needs to be done.

“For our system of government to work, you have to have a respect for the rule of law,” he said. “And if you don’t like a law you have to follow the process to change it.”

No matter who is steering the ship, an administration cannot last long if states can “just all of sudden on their own, say, “Eh, I don’t want to do that,'” Montgomery added.

When it comes to medicinal marijuana, Montgomery admitted he is a little more lenient. He proposed the idea of incorporating the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to study current and future medical marijuana uses.

Montgomery argued that by involving the FDA, it would present a body of evidence to decide if marijuana or its components should be rescheduled based on the science.

“I don’t believe this is either you legalize marijuana for everything or you restrict it and don’t allow it for anything,” he said. “And if the science [proves marijuana can help medically], I’m fine with it. At that point, there really would be nothing to argue against other than a personal view about marijuana as a substance.”

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