Lawmakers: Feds should respect pot votes in states

SEATTLE — A group of lawmakers on Friday urged the Justice Department to respect recent votes in Colorado and Washington state allowing the recreational use of marijuana, and some introduced a bill to ensure that happens.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado said her bill would bar the federal government from blocking state marijuana laws. Several other lawmakers have signed on, including Republican Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado.

“I voted against Amendment 64 and I strongly oppose the legalization of marijuana, but I also have an obligation to respect the will of the voters,” Coffman said in a statement. “I feel obligated to support this legislation.”

Voters this month made Washington and Colorado the first states to allow adults over 21 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, and to set up state licensing schemes for pot growers, processors and retail stores. Taxes could bring the states tens or hundreds of millions of dollars a year, financial analysts say.

But marijuana remains illegal under federal law. States are not required to enforce the federal prohibition, meaning they can make marijuana crimes legal under state law, but whether they can set up licensing schemes to promote violations of federal law is another story.

Many constitutional lawyers don’t think so: In general, state laws that “frustrate the purpose” of federal laws can be blocked.

But the DOJ hasn’t said whether it plans to sue to block the licensing schemes from taking effect. Seventeen Democratic representatives signed a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and Drug Enforcement Administration Administrator Michele Leonhart urging the DOJ to let the states proceed with regulating pot and to refrain from prosecuting people who comply with the state laws.

“These states have chosen to move from a drug policy that spends millions of dollars turning ordinary Americans into criminals toward one that will tightly regulate the use of marijuana while raising tax revenue to support cash-strapped state and local governments,” the letter said. “We believe this approach embraces the goals of existing federal marijuana law: to stop international trafficking, deter domestic organized criminal organizations, stop violence associated with the drug trade and protect children.”

Proponents of the marijuana measures welcomed the letter and DeGette’s legislation, which would amend the Controlled Substances Act to clarify that it shall not pre-empt state marijuana laws.

“It’s fantastic to see congressional representatives move decisively to respect the will of the voters and facilitate the fundamental reformation of our marijuana laws at the state level,” said Alison Holcomb, campaign manager for Washington’s Initiative 502.

So far, no Washington lawmakers have signed onto DeGette’s legislation.

More in Local News

If vehicles crash and tumble, rescuers want to be ready

The Puyallup Extrication Team practiced with other fire departments on cars, SUVs and even buses.

Man arrested after stolen car crashes in Everett

The accident occurred in the 100 block of SE Everett Mall Way.

5-vehicle crash in Arlington kills 62-year-old woman

Medics had transported her to the hospital, where she later died.

2 men hospitalized after rollover collision on U.S. 2

Two men were taken to the hospital with minor injuries… Continue reading

Marysville police serve a warrant — across the street from HQ

A man who fled was taken into custody. Police were serving a warrant for alleged drug-related crimes.

Marysville man charged with stabbing wife who sought divorce

Nathan Bradford, 45, found divorce papers while going through the woman’s car.

Man on ferry accuses child of theft, allegedly pulls knife

The man was arrested, no one was hurt, and the ferry was delayed 30 minutes on its way to Mukilteo.

State is close but still not compliant in school-funding case

Lawmakers must act during the next legislative session to satisfy the state Supreme Court.

Dems say GOP tax plan doesn’t add up for everyone

Rep. Suzan DelBene’s amendments to restore deductions, which the bill does away with, were rejected.

Most Read