HASH(0xa8afec)

Officials in legal pot state vow to fight federal crackdown

Officials in legal pot state vow to fight federal crackdown

WASHINGTON — Officials in Washington state, where recreational marijuana is legal, vow to fight any federal crackdown on the nascent industry after White House spokesman Sean Spicer said they should expect to see stepped-up enforcement of anti-pot laws.

Bob Ferguson, attorney general in Washington state, which joined Colorado in 2012 as the first states to legalize recreational use of the drug, said he requested a meeting last week with Attorney General Jeff Sessions about his approach to legal, regulated marijuana.

“We will resist any efforts to thwart the will of the voters in Washington,” Ferguson said Thursday.

The comments came shortly after Spicer offered the Trump administration’s strongest indication to date of a looming crackdown on recreational pot, saying “I do believe you’ll see greater enforcement” of federal law. But, speaking in response to a question at a news conference, he offered no details about what such enforcement would entail.

President Donald Trump does not oppose medical marijuana, Spicer added, but “that’s very different than recreational use, which is something the Department of Justice will be further looking into.”

A renewed focus on recreational marijuana in states that have legalized pot would present a departure from the Trump administration’s statements in favour of states’ rights. A day earlier, the administration announced that the issue of transgender student bathroom access was best left to states and local communities to decide.

Enforcement would also shift away from marijuana policy under the Obama administration, which said in a 2013 memo that it would not intervene in states’ marijuana laws as long as they keep the drug from crossing state lines and away from children and drug cartels.

But the memo carried no force of law and could be rewritten by Sessions, who has consistently said he opposes legal marijuana but has not indicated what he might do.

Eight states and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana for recreational use. The Justice Department has several options available should it decide to enforce the law, including filing lawsuits on the grounds that state laws regulating pot are unconstitutional because they are pre-empted by federal law. Enforcement could also be as simple as directing U.S. attorneys to send letters to recreational marijuana businesses letting them know they are breaking the law.

Kevin Sabet, head of the anti-marijuana group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said pot enforcement is a matter of public safety.

“The current situation is unsustainable,” he said in a statement. “This isn’t an issue about states’ rights, it’s an issue of public health and safety for communities.”

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Ferguson, the state’s attorney general, sent a letter last week to Sessions asking to discuss the issue and laying out the state’s arguments for keeping its regulated market in place.

“Our state’s efforts to regulate the sale of marijuana are succeeding,” they wrote in the letter, which was released Thursday. “A few years ago, the illegal trafficking of marijuana lined the pockets of criminals everywhere. Now, in our state, illegal trafficking activity is being displaced by a closely regulated marijuana industry that pays hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes. This frees up significant law enforcement resources to protect our communities in other, more pressing ways.”

In Washington state, sales at licensed pot shops now average nearly $4.4 million per day — with little evidence of any negative societal effects. That’s close to $1 billion in sales so far for the fiscal year that began last July, some $184 million of which is state tax revenue.

Spicer’s comments came the same day a Quinnipiac poll said 59 per cent of Americans think marijuana should be legal and 71 per cent would oppose a federal crackdown.

In Pueblo, Colorado, legal marijuana has helped fund college scholarships, parks, jail improvements and school drug prevention programs, County Commissioner Sal Pace said.

“Most Americans agree on this issue; let the states decide,” Pace said.

States have been flouting the U.S. Controlled Substances Act since at least 1996, when California voters approved marijuana for sick people, a direct conflict with federal guidelines barring the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

And presidents since Bill Clinton have said the federal government unequivocally rejects a state’s ability to modify federal drug law.

However, three presidents over the last 20 years have each concluded that the limited resources of the Justice Department are best spent pursuing large drug cartels, not individual users of marijuana.

Nevada state Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford said in a statement Thursday that meddling in recreational pot laws would be federal overreach and harm state coffers that fund education.

__

Associated Press writers Kristen Wyatt in Denver and Gene Johnson in Seattle contributed to this report.

Sadie Gurman, The Associated Press

Just Posted

Kelowna Gospel Mission creates more meals with new slicer

The slicer was donated by the Morningside Rotary Club

Jumper cables ignite small car fire

Fire crews quickly put out a car fire in Rutland Wednesday afternoon

Central Okanagan residents urged to chip it, not chuck it

Plans already in place to dispose of Christmas trees after the upcoming holiday

Outbreak affects eight people in Vernon

UPDATE: Gastrointestinal illness reported at Vernon Jubilee Hospital

VIDEO: Average Canadian food bill to rise by $348 in 2018

Atlantic Canada and B.C. will see the most increases for consumers

Rockets fall in Swift Current for third straight loss

The Broncos score the game’s first five goals in Kelowna’s fourth game of six-game eastern trip

Star gazing: Mars – the Red Planet

Mars is part of our culture, currently of extreme scientific interest, and sufficiently like Earth

Kelowna auto dealer revs up KGH building project with big donation

Kelowna Toyota has donated $30,000 to help build JoeAnna’s House on hospital grounds

More than 20,000 pounds of garbage removed from riverside homeless camps

Two camps taken down last week on the banks of the Fraser and Chilliwack rivers

Suspect in Revelstoke standoff killed himself: RCMP

Mohammadali Darabi, suspect in the Calgary homicide of his roommate, was stopped in Revelstoke

Clinton visits Vancouver, applauds Trudeau, celebrates Democrats’ win in Alabama

Clinton told crowd she cheered when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed the country’s first gender-balanced cabinet.

VIDEO: Salt Spring Islanders ferry piano to their floating home

Everyone enjoys a little music on the water, but not everyone has a piano on their boat

RCMP volunteers step up parking lot patrols for Christmas

Citizen’s On Patrol look to deter criminal opportunists while giving shoppers peace of mind

Most Read