OLYMPIA – State officials are trying to convince the federal government they can keep legally grown pot from making its way over the border to Oregon, Idaho or other states as they try to avoid a legal fight over the new marijuana law.
“It is our responsibility to show the federal government we will be a responsible entity,” Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday.
The state is trying to get more information to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on the issue of “leakage,” or the diversion of some legally grown and licensed marijuana into the black market. It is compiling information about the State Patrol’s highway interdiction program to send to Washington, D.C.
“They’ve been very successful,” Inslee said at a news conference.
The state also is talking to representatives of the biotechnology industry, which currently tracks prescription drugs, to find a way to track legally grown marijuana from the farm to the store, he said.
Inslee told a group of Spokane-area business and civic leaders he didn’t support Initiative 502 when it was on the ballot last year, but now that it has passed he is responsible for seeing the voters’ decision carried out responsibly. “It’s my obligation to respect democracy,” he told the group.
The federal government probably won’t be too concerned about marijuana sold in stores making its way across the borders, he said. The limit of one ounce per person in the new law is likely too small of an amount for federal agents to worry about.
Inslee and state Attorney General Bob Ferguson met with Holder this week, but the U.S. attorney general didn’t give any indication of what the federal government might do after Washington establishes a system for regulating and taxing marijuana. Holder “appears to be willing to listen to our proposals,” the governor said.
I-502 says that system must be running by Dec. 1. “I intend to meet that goal,” neither speeding up the process nor slowing it down, Inslee said. The Washington State Liquor Control Board is in the process of developing rules to cover the production and sale of marijuana.
Republican leaders in the Legislature said they also respect the will of the voters, but House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt said it was up to Inslee to “weave his way through the federal issues.” The state needs to make sure it doesn’t jeopardize hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid by setting up a system to regulate an illegal substance, they said, and it must protect state workers involved in the regulation from federal arrest.
Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, the Senate majority leader, said he doesn’t want the state to have to explain to an employee’s children that their mother is in jail “because she did her job.”