Gov. Jay Inslee issued the following statement Thursday after news that the U.S. Department of Justice would rescind the Cole Memorandum that has allowed Washington and other states to implement marijuana laws:
“(It) is the wrong direction for our state. It is also disrespects Washington voters who have chosen a different path for our state. I am especially frustrated that this announcement comes after (Attorney General Jeff) Sessions has refused offers from state Attorney General (Bob) Ferguson and myself to meet with him to discuss these policies in person, after he has disregarded the input that we and other state leaders have provided to his department.
“In Washington state we have put in place a system in place that adheres to what we pledged to the people of Washington and the federal government; it’s well regulated, keeps criminal elements out, keeps pot out of the hands of kids and tracks it all carefully enough to clamp down on cross-border leakage. We are going to keep doing that and overseeing the well-regulated market that Washington voters approved.
“Make no mistake: As we have told the Department of Justice ever since I-502 was passed in 2012, we will vigorously defend our state’s laws against undue federal infringement.”
While Washington and other states have legalized marijuana use and sales, the drug remains illegal under federal law. The city of Kent bans marijuana businesses but other cities have retail shops and processing plants.
U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes, who covers the Western District of Washington, issued the following statement about federal marijuana prosecution in the state:
“Today, the Attorney General reiterated his confidence in the basic principles that guide the discretion of all U.S. Attorneys around the country, and directed that those principles shepherd enforcement of federal law regarding marijuana. He also emphasized his belief that U.S. Attorneys are in the best position to address public safety in their districts, and address the crime control problems that are pressing in their communities.
“Those principles have always been at the core of what the United States Attorney’s Office for Western Washington has done – across all threats to public safety, including those relating to marijuana. As a result, we have investigated and prosecuted over many years cases involving organized crime, violent and gun threats, and financial crimes related to marijuana. We will continue to do so to ensure – consistent with the most recent guidance from the Department – that our enforcement efforts with our federal, state, local and tribal partners focus on those who pose the greatest safety risk to the people and communities we serve.”