OLYMPIA — State officials appear to be hoping for the best while preparing for the worst as Washington and the federal government try to determine how the state will license and regulate marijuana.
After a meeting in Washington, D.C., with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Tuesday, Gov. Jay Inslee said the nation's chief legal officer was open to learning more about the law voters passed and the state's plans to make it work. There were no firm conclusions from their first meeting, Inslee said.
State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said they also made it clear to Holder the state has a team of lawyers preparing for any federal lawsuit, should one come.
“We want to avoid a legal fight,” Ferguson said. “If it comes to it, we will be prepared.”
Inslee characterized their first meeting over the state's voter-approved marijuana law as cordial, with Holder asking questions about some aspects of the law and state officials providing him with a three-page memo on the duties state employees would have to license and regulate the growth, processing, distribution and sale of marijuana. They will provide more information on how the state plans to contain the sale of legal marijuana within its borders.
“It was a good meeting,” Inslee said. “I do feel good that the attorney general will look at this in great detail.”
The Washington State Liquor Control Board, which under Initiative 502 is in charge of coming up with regulations for licensing producers and sellers, can continue with that process, he said. Under the law, that process must be up and running by Dec. 1, and some of the licenses would be available by August.
“We're moving forward,” Ferguson said. “There are some deadlines coming up soon.”
There was no indication from Holder whether the federal government will take legal action against the state to prevent the regulation and sale of marijuana, which currently is illegal for all uses under federal law.
Ferguson said his office has already assigned a team that is “mapping out a legal strategy” to pursue if the federal government does go to court to try to block the law. “The legal issues are complex,” he added.