State officials will discuss pot in D.C.

As regulations are developed, federal policy is big issue

By

Published:

 

SEATTLE -- Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and state Attorney General Bob Ferguson will travel to Washington, D.C., this week and meet with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder about marijuana enforcement and the implementation of Initiative 502, the state's voter-approved legal-pot law.

The state law conflicts with federal law, which maintains that all forms of marijuana are illegal.

As the state establishes regulations for a new, legal marijuana industry, and investors prepare to plow money into it, one question looms: Will the federal government crack down, or look the other way?

"We know there are issues with federal enforcement," said Inslee spokesman David Postman. He said Inslee and Ferguson want to talk about those face-to-face with Holder. "I'd say this is the start of a substantive conversation," Postman said.

The meeting is scheduled for Tuesday.

President Barack Obama has said recreational pot smoking in Colorado and Washington, the two states that have legalized it, is not a major concern for his administration.

"We've got bigger fish to fry," Obama told ABC News last month. "It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it's legal."

But some pot advocates remain leery because earlier statements from the administration that it wouldn't interfere with individual medical-marijuana users were followed by crackdowns on dispensaries and others who grew and sold the pot. The Justice Department has declined to say whether it would file a lawsuit to block the laws.

Local law-enforcement leaders also are awaiting clearer signs from the federal government.

Holder said last month he would announce a policy "relatively soon."

In a statement after Obama's comment last month, Inslee said, "I believe there is good reason to be confident that our state will move forward."

Postman said he hopes to report this week on what Inslee learns from meeting with Holder.

Meanwhile, the agency charged with implementing Washington's new law is seeking consultants with expertise the state lacks in matters such as pot quality and consumption habits.

The Washington State Liquor Control Board will draft regulations to implement I-502 in months to come. On Thursday, it issued a "request for proposals," looking for consulting services in four categories: product and industry knowledge; product-quality standards and testing; product usage and consumption validation; and product regulation.

Consultants can bid in any or all of the categories. Experience as illegal growers or sellers would not disqualify them, said board spokesman Brian Smith.