Gregoire presses feds for a response to Washington’s legalization of marijuana

Governor told issue under study; no timeline for answer



WASHINGTON, D.C. — With Washington state set to decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana on Dec. 6, Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire is eager to know how the federal government will respond.

On Tuesday, she received no guidance, only a promise from the Obama administration that it intends to study the issue.

After state voters approved Initiative 502 with 55 percent of the vote last week, Gregoire went to Washington, D.C., to meet with U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole to discuss the issue. Gregoire said she asked Cole whether the federal government planned to sue the state in an attempt to block the measure.

“I wanted to know what his enforcement policy would be if there was or was not litigation under federal law … Basically, I was asking him if they were planning on taking any action to stop us from going forward from implementing, and when,” Gregoire said.

She said she was told by Cole that the Justice Department was still reviewing the outcome and had not made any decision, and that there was no guarantee an answer would come in the next few weeks.

“They didn’t give me a timeline,” Gregoire said. “It’s a little more complex than it might appear on its face, so they’re going to spend the time and try and make sure they get it right — and whether they can do it by December 6th is an open question.”

Gregoire said Cole asked her to provide a written analysis of the issues facing the state as it moves forward with decriminalization. She said she plans to coordinate her response with officials in Colorado, where voters also passed a measure legalizing marijuana.

Gregoire planned to return to the state Tuesday night after a two-day trip that included a meeting with the Council of Governors at the Pentagon to discuss National Guard issues and another meeting with Energy Secretary Steven Chu to discuss plans to deal with a leak at a tank of waste at the Hanford nuclear waste site.

Meanwhile, the National Journal listed Gregoire as a possible replacement for Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in President Barack Obama’s second term.

But Gregoire, who is set to leave the governor’s office in January, said she came to Washington, D.C., only for her previously planned meetings and that she hadn’t given any thought to the possibility of taking a new job with Obama’s team.