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

Herald photos of the week

A weekly collection of The Herald’s best images by staff photographers and… Continue reading

No easy exit from Smokey Point shopping complex

There’s just no easy exit on this one. A reader called in… Continue reading

Lynnwood, Marysville, Sultan consider ban on safe injection sites

If approved, they would join Lake Stevens and Snohomish County, which have temporary bans.

City Council OKs initial funding for Smith Avenue parking lot

The site of the former Smith Street Mill is being developed in anticipation of light rail.

Single fingerprint on robbery note leads to arrest

The holdup occurred at a U.S. Bank branch in Lynnwood in June.

Two windsurfers rescued from Port Susan near Kayak Point

The men had failed to return to shore during Sunday’s windstorm.

Yes to turn signal — eventually

Adding a right-turn signal at 112th St. and 7th Ave. is turning out to be a bit more complicated.

Mill Creek councilman no longer lives in city, panel finds

The Canvassing Board determined Sean Kelly is not eligible to vote there.

A Democrat and ex-Republican team up to end two-party politics

Brian Baird and Chris Vance unveil a new organization called Washington Independents.

Most Read