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Gregoire: state will forge ahead on legal pot

OLYMPIA – Washington will be “following the will of the voters and moving ahead” with setting up ways that adults can legally obtain marijuana for recreational use, Gov. Chris Gregoire said Tuesday after meeting with federal law enforcement officials.

Gregoire met with Deputy Attorney General James Cole in Washington, D.C, Tuesday to discuss how the state would implement Initiative 502, which voters passed in last week’s election.

Although the initiative means possession of one ounce or less of the drug will be legal for adults under state law, federal law still classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, making it illegal for all uses. Gregoire asked the Justice Department to “clarify” its position on handling conflict between federal and state laws.

“In turn, as the state begins the implementation process, we will convey to them any problems or concerns,” Gregoire’s staff said in a prepared statement after the meeting.

Gregoire opposed the initiative, as did Governor-elect Jay Inslee, but both said they would work to implement it if it passed. It received support from more than 55 percent of the voters.

Under Initiative 502, the state Liquor Control Board has the task of setting up the system for issuing licenses to marijuana producers, processors and retailers, and of collecting taxes from those license holders.

The law goes into effect on Dec. 6, the day the general election results are certified, but the board has until Dec. 1, 2013 to set up the system.

Gregoire said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is having similar conversations with the Justice Department because voters in that state also passed a ballot measure legalizing marijuana use for adults. It’s important the department understands the differences between the two laws, she said.

One difference: Washington state does not allow users to grow and smoke their own marijuana. Colorado allows an adult to grow as many as six plants and give marijuana they grow away to other adults.