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Originally published November 13, 2012 at 6:49 PM | Page modified November 14, 2012 at 11:06 AM

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Gregoire awaits federal decision on new pot laws

Gov. Chris Gregoire says authorities in Washington, D.C., have not yet decided how to respond to new laws in Washington state and Colorado legalizing marijuana.

The Associated Press

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Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire said Tuesday the federal government still hasn't decided whether to take action to block new laws legalizing marijuana in her state and Colorado.

Gregoire met with Deputy Attorney General James Cole in Washington, D.C. She told Cole she would prefer to know "sooner rather than later," because Washington state is getting ready to decriminalize pot, which is still illegal under federal law.

"I told them, 'Make no mistake, that absent an injunction of some sort, it's our intent to implement decriminalization,' " Gregoire told The Associated Press. "I don't want to spend a lot of money implementing this if you are going to attempt to block it."

Initiative 502 passed last week with 55 percent of the vote in the state. It decriminalizes the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana beginning Dec. 6. The state would license the growing, processing and labeling of marijuana, but state officials have a year to come up with those rules before sales can begin.

Colorado also passed a measure legalizing the drug.

Federal lawyers are reviewing the two new state laws, trying to determine what their response will be, Gregoire said.

"It's not a simple analysis for them," she said. "There's a difference between our two initiatives, and they want to look at that. They clearly want to know how things are going to flow, how regulations develop, how enforcement would be taken, taxes would be gathered."

She said she pressed Cole as to whether the ultimate federal response would treat both Washington and Colorado the same way, and Justice Department officials indicated to her that that was their intent.

In Washington, home-growing marijuana for recreational reasons remains barred, as does the public display or use of pot. The measure also establishes a standard blood-test limit for driving under the influence, and Gregoire says the head of the Washington State Patrol has to begin training officers to enforce that portion of the measure.

"He can't wait, he's got to start doing this," Washington's governor said.

Gregoire said she promised to keep the Justice Department fully informed as to the progress the state is making in implementing the new marijuana law.

Colorado's governor and attorney general spoke by phone Friday with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, with no signal whether the U.S. Justice Department would sue to block the marijuana measure.

If Colorado's marijuana ballot measure is not blocked, it would take effect by Jan. 5, the deadline for the governor to add the amendment to the state constitution. The measure allows adults to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, and six marijuana plants, though public use of the drug and driving while intoxicated are prohibited.

Colorado's new law also directs lawmakers to write regulations on how pot can be sold, with commercial sales possible by 2014.

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