Gregoire asks Justice Department about marijuana
Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire has met with James Cole, deputy U.S. attorney general, to discuss the decriminalization of marijuana under Initiative 502. The initiative was passed by voters Nov. 6, and is to be certified Dec. 6 and go into effect Dec. 9. On its face the decriminalization here and in Colorado conflicts with federal law, specifically the posting of marijuana under Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act.
Gregoire, a former state attorney general, has been a cautious supporter of marijuana liberalization. She was for medical marijuana, but she vetoed much of the medical marijuana bill of 2011, sponsored by Sen Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, out of worry that federal agents would arrest state employees. In 2011 she petitioned the federal Drug Enforcement Administration to reclassify cannabis as a Schedule II drug, which would allow doctors to prescribe it as medicine and pharmacists to sell it.
She didn’t support 502 but the voters did, and she has a duty to go to bat for them. And she has.
Her spokesman, Cory Curtis, said she told Cole the state of Washington is going ahead with Initiative 502, first working with Washington State Patrol on enforcement of the driving under the influence law, for which 502 set a new standard. That is the smaller effort; the big one is the work by the Washington State Liquor Control Board to decide how to license and regulate cannabis growers, processors and retailers. This is to be done by December 2013 and is estimated to cost the state $17 million.
Her question was the attitude of the Justice Department toward all this. “There was nothing definitive from them,” Curtis said.
He said Gregoire told Cole she hoped the federal government would come up with some decision on state marijuana legalization sooner rather than later, before the state of Washington spent the full year, and the $17 million.
One of the things the federal government could do is act on her petition to reschedule marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act. But to satisfy Initiative 502, the rescheduling would have to be much more thorough than merely to post it under Schedule II, which includes such drugs as cocaine, opium, methadone, oxycodone, morphine and dexedrine. Under Initiative 502, which turns cannabis into an over-the-counter commercial product available to anyone over 21, marijuana should probably be delisted entirely.
Achenblog by Joel Achenbach
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