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Originally published Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 12:02 AM

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Editorial: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation should get out of the way of sane state marijuana laws

The Obama Administration’s erratic response to state marijuana laws should come with a warning label.


Seattle Times Editorial

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The piles of lobbyists who actually own our government include tobacco and alcohol interests. They do not want to... MORE
This is not that strange at all, and not nearly as counter as the article suggests. Deciding to take a hands off... MORE
I love how the same people who want the feds to keep their hands out of state pot legalization applaud federal... MORE

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THE federal government’s response to the marijuana revolt brewing on the state level should carry a warning label. Beware: signs of impaired decision-making, with erratic policy-swerving and conflicting statements.

After months of signaling a truce with Washington and other states that are pursuing an end to the marijuana drug war, the Obama administration apparently is prepared to draw a strange line regarding water.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation effectively sought to close the tap for marijuana growing in parts of Washington. In a policy memo, the bureau, the wholesale irrigation supplier for 1.2 million acres in the state, said its water couldn’t be used for marijuana. Reclamation staff would document “all activities and communications” regarding “known or potential uses” of bureau-managed water for marijuana growing, and forward tips to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Yet another jarring policy swerve from the Obama administration on marijuana. Asked about Washington and Colorado’s legalization experiment by The New Yorker in January, Obama said, “It’s important for it to go forward.”

In that vein, the DOJ has issued stand-down memos regarding criminal enforcement and banking regulation, enabling state-licensedcommercial marijuana retailing.

A state cultivation license was granted to a Spokane businessman to grow 21,000 square feet of marijuana. Yet, even as that crop blooms, the U.S. Attorney for Eastern Washington is pursing criminal charges against legitimate medical-marijuana patients, including a 70-year-old retired truck driver with gout, for growing a small crop for personal use.

And now comes the Bureau of Reclamation’s decision to be an enforcement arm of the failed Controlled Substances Act. The bizarre juxtaposition is a laugh line on late-night talk shows.

But there are serious and ongoing costs of the erratic policy swerving. Responding to the Bureau’s memo, U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Medina, rightly called on the Obama administration to “make clear that it will not penalize” people for complying with far more sane state marijuana laws.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Erik Smith, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).



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