U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced this morning that the federal government will not interfere with I-502, the pot legalization measure passed by Washington state voters 56-44 last November allowing the sale and private, recreational use and possession of small amounts (one ounce) of pot.
Gov. Jay Inslee and Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson issued a joint statement this morning in response:
Today 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 pre-empt 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.
We want to thank the Attorney General for working with the states on this and for finding a way that allows our initiative to move forward while maintaining a commitment to fighting illegal drugs. This reflects a balanced approach by the federal government that respects the states’ interests in implementing these laws and recognizes the federal government’s role in fighting illegal drugs and criminal activity.
Attorney General Holder also expressed a willingness to work with the states on a financial structure that would not run afoul of federal law. The news today is an affirmation of good work by the state Liquor Control Board as it has devised a responsible system of implementing our voter-approved law. We can assure the Attorney General that Washington state will remain vigilant in enforcing laws against the illicit marijuana market. Since voters approved Initiative 502 last year, the state has been working to implement it. Today’s announcement from Attorney General Holder is a confirmation that the process can continue to move forward as planned. We appreciate that the federal government will allow the voice of Washingtonians to be heard on this issue.
Mayor Mike McGinn and SPD Chief Jim Pugel also issued statements.
McGinn: “Washington voters overwhelmingly approved the legalization of marijuana last year, a policy that I fully support. Since then, we have wondered what the course of action would be for federal officials, for whom marijuana remains an illegal substance. Today, I applaud US Attorney General Holder’s announcement that he will not interfere with the will of Washington voters. Seattle public safety officials, residents and entrepreneurs can now proceed with confidence that the will of the voters has prevailed in Washington.”
Pugel: “I am pleased that Attorney General Holder has provided clarity about the future of I-502 in Washington State. Our department will continue our mission of public safety, harm reduction, and public education encouraging safe and lawful behavior with regards to the guidelines for marijuana established by Washington voters.”