Federal pot law concerns must be handled

OlympianAugust 27, 2013 

Ron Kammerzell, left, the Senior Director of Enforcement for Colorado Dept. of Revenue, and Kelly Rosenberg, Assistant Attorney General, Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division, listen to public comments during a recreational marijuana rule making hearing, at the state Capitol, in Denver, Tuesday Aug. 20, 2013. Colorado's pot regulators opened three days of hearings Tuesday to lay out licensing specifics before retail sales begin in January. The proposed rules require would-be marijuana entrepreneurs to pay up to $5,000 to apply to be in the recreational pot business. Operational licenses would cost another $2,750 to $14,000. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)


It’s been nearly 10 months since state voters approved Initiative 502, which allows adults to possess up to one ounce of marijuana for recreational use.

The state law, along with a similar one in Colorado, remains in conflict with federal drug laws and policies, and the federal government has done next to nothing to indicate how it will respond when this former black market drug surfaces in a state-sanctioned sales and purchase arena.

The federal government’s silence on the matter casts an uneasy pall over all of the hard work the state Liquor Control Board and others are doing to create a well-regulated market for pot, a good-faith effort to keep the drug inside state boundaries and out of the hands of minors.

It’s high time the federal government sent a clear message to the two states on how it plans to proceed. Preferably, the feds will defer to state rights on the matter.

Short of that, it makes sense to explore reasonable options that allow the states and its soon-to-be licensed growers, processors and sellers to operate without the threat of arrest and prosecution.

One way out of the stalemate — and a reasonable one at that — was offered last week by Mark Kleiman, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, who doubles as the state’s lead consultant on marijuana.

He suggested at a public forum in Olympia that the states of Washington and Colorado enter into drug enforcement contracts with the federal Department of Justice, something allowed under federal law.

The states would agree to crack down on illegal pot growing in exchange for a federal promise not to bust state-licensed businesses engaged in the marijuana industry.

It’s not a perfect solution, but it would erase some of the palpable concern and uncertainty over the federal government’s next move when the state doles out licenses to growers, processors and sellers next year.

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