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Leaders Just Say No to Talking About Marijuana

A day after the Department of Justice announced it would not challenge state laws legalizing marijuana, not a single top leader in Congress has weighed in on the issue — signaling, perhaps, the noxious nature of pot politics.

The DOJ guidance was heralded in press releases by some Democratic members of the Colorado and Washington delegations — the two states most directly affected by the decision not to challenge legalization laws. And Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., and ranking member Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, issued statements for and against the move.

But leaders have chosen to steer clear of the volatile issue, perhaps to avoid getting caught up in the smoke. Recent polls have shown majority support for legalizing the drug and large majorities favoring legalization of medical marijuana.

The silence of Speaker John A. Boehner and other leaders didn’t surprise Colorado Democrat Jared Polis.

“I think it’s appropriate given the divisions in his conference that he didn’t opine, because his caucus is so divided,” Polis told CQ Roll Call on Friday. “Both his conference and Congress itself is divided on this issue.”

Polis continued that there was a “strong strain of states’ rights” in the Republican party, just as there was also a “strong strain” of anti-marijuana lawmakers.

But Polis took comfort in the fact that Republicans had not immediately rushed to criticize the new guidance.

“I think that’s progress,” Polis said.