Gregoire meeting with feds over marijuana law

OLYMPIA — Washington state Gov. Chris Gregoire will meet with Deputy Attorney General James Cole on Tuesday to discuss the state’s recent passage of a measure to legalize and tax the sale of marijuana for recreational use.

Gregoire spokesman Cory Curtis said Monday that the meeting was added to a slate the governor had already scheduled in Washington, D.C., on other state matters. But on the issue of marijuana, Curtis said Gregoire wanted to meet with federal officials because “we want direction from them.”

“Our goal is to respect the will of the voters, but give us some clarity,” he said.

Initiative 502 passed with 55 percent of the vote last week. The measure decriminalizes the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana beginning Dec. 6, but the state has a year to come up with rules governing the state-licensed growing, processing and labeling of pot before sales to adults over 21 can begin. It also establishes a standard blood test limit for driving under the influence.

Home-growing marijuana for recreational reasons remains barred, as does the public display or use of pot.

Colorado also passed a measure legalizing the drug. 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 measure also directs lawmakers to write regulations on how pot can be sold, with commercial sales possible by 2014.

Gregoire went to D.C. on Monday for a meeting with the Council of Governors and Army Lt. Gen. Frank Grass at the Pentagon to discuss National Guard issues, and for another meeting with Energy Secretary Steven Chu to discuss plans to deal with a leak at a large, double-walled tank of waste at Hanford, the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site.

Curtis said that the meeting with Cole was added to her schedule on Monday.

“Our biggest concern is that the state has a fairly big startup cost in creating the whole licensing and regulating scheme around this,” he said. “We want some sort of clarity on this before we get a year down the road on the process.”

Gregoire will return to Washington state on Tuesday night.

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