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Feds won't try to stop Washington's new recreational marijuana law
The federal government won't try to stop Washington from implementing the state's voter-approved recreational marijuana law despite the drug being illegal under federal law.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder issued a statement Thursday that the Department of Justice updated its federal marijuana enforcement policy in light of recent state ballot initiatives in Washington and Colorado that legalize, under state law, the possession of small amounts of marijuana and provide for the regulation of marijuana production, processing and sale.
Here is a part of the statement:
"For states such as Colorado and Washington that have enacted laws to authorize the production, distribution and possession of marijuana, the Department expects these states to establish strict regulatory schemes that protect the eight federal interests identified in the Department’s guidance.
"These schemes must be tough in practice, not just on paper, and include strong, state-based enforcement efforts, backed by adequate funding. Based on assurances that those states will impose an appropriately strict regulatory system, the Department has informed the governors of both states that it is deferring its right to challenge their legalization laws at this time. But if any of the stated harms do materialize—either despite a strict regulatory scheme or because of the lack of one—federal prosecutors will act aggressively to bring individual prosecutions focused on federal enforcement priorities and the Department may challenge the regulatory scheme themselves in these states."
The announcement received positive response from Gov. Jay Inslee and State Attorney General Bob Ferguson. They issued the following joint statement:
“Today (Thursday) we received confirmation Washington’s voter-approved marijuana law will be implemented. We received good news this morning when Attorney General Eric Holder told the governor the federal government would not preempt Washington and Colorado as the states implement a highly regulated legalized market for marijuana.
"Attorney General Holder made it clear the federal government will continue to enforce the federal Controlled Substance Act by focusing its enforcement on eight specific concerns, including the prevention of distribution to minors and the importance of keeping Washington-grown marijuana within our state’s borders. We share those concerns and are confident our state initiative will be implemented as planned."
The eight enforcement priorities of the federal government include preventing:
• the distribution of marijuana to minors
• revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels
• the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law in some form to other states
• state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs or other illegal activity
• violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana
• drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use
• the growing of marijuana on public lands and the attendant public safety and environmental dangers posed by marijuana production on public lands
• marijuana possession or use on federal property
State Liquor Board officials said the federal statement gives them the go-ahead to implement I-502 passed by voters in November.
"With the federal government’s approval the Board will continue to move forward and implement I-502 and the carry out the will of Washington State voters," a liquor board statement said.
King County Executive Dow Constantine issued the following statement:
“I am proud of Washington State for leading the way on national policy. We will regulate the production and sale of adult use marijuana in a way that reduces harm, protects youth, and profits legitimate, law-abiding, tax-paying businesses rather than criminals. Prohibition has clearly failed and, thanks to this decision by the federal government, we can now develop policies that respect the will of the people and work better for our communities.”