Inslee sends letter detailing state’s legal pot plan

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee sent U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder a letter this week detailing the efforts the state is taking as it moves forward with creating rules for a voter-approved legal market for marijuana.

Inslee wrote the “the world is watching” both Colorado and Washington as the two states implement last fall’s votes that approved the recreational use of marijuana

“We intend to do it right,” he wrote. The letter was sent Tuesday, but released by Inslee’s office publicly on Thursday.

Voters in Washington state and Colorado in November approved measures legalizing the recreational use of the drug, allowing use by adults over 21 and the creation of state-licensed systems of growers, processors and retail stores that sell heavily taxed pot.

But because the creation of those regulatory schemes poses a possible conflict with federal law, which outlaws marijuana, the states have been moving ahead with implementation without certainty of whether the federal government will try to block them.

Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson met with Holder last month, but they weren’t given any clarity on how the federal government will respond, if at all.

However, Inslee said he promised Holder that he would give him further details on how the state might prevent Washington-grown marijuana from being diverted to other states.

In his letter, Inslee noted that Washington state officials are in discussion with officials from Colorado about that state’s current system of regulating medical marijuana.

Inslee also wrote that he is exploring digitally tracking legally grown plants and processed marijuana to preclude large-scale diversion. He mentioned that apples in the state can already be traced from individual orchards, “through packing houses and distributors, and ultimately to market.”

Inslee wrote that the state Liquor Control Board, charged with regulating marijuana under Washington’s measure, is still in the midst of ruling on rules for the process. He said that while the process is still ongoing, “our goals include creation of a system that minimizes the illicit market through price, access and convenience while simultaneously controlling the product.”

Inslee said the agency already performs background checks of potential licensees, but that those checks will likely be expanded to include fingerprinting, allowing access to both the Washington State Patrol and FBI databases.

The governor wrote that inventory control, packaging and labeling and recording keeping and audits would all have high standards and rules to ensure proper control over the marijuana that is grown, processed and sold in the state.

The Liquor Control Board has already held a series of public forums on the rulemaking process, and a draft of proposed rules for producer licenses is expected to be filed by mid-April. Under their timeline, the board said that producer licenses would be effective in August, and processor and retailer licenses would become effective on Dec. 1.

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