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June 18, 2013 at 3:14 PM

Clear up the uncertainty on pot, state Democrats tell feds

WASHINGTON — Speaking collectively, seven congressional Democrats from Washington on Tuesday pressed the Justice Department for quick action on the state’s recreation-marijuana law.

In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, the lawmakers — including three who personally opposed last year’s pot initiative — urged assurances that pot users and sellers won’t be “penalized by the federal government for activities legal under state law.”

The letter was signed by Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, as well as Reps. Adam Smith of Bellevue, Jim McDermott of Seattle, Suzan DelBene of Medina, Denny Heck of Olympia and Derek Kilmer of Gig Harbor.

Of the seven, Cantwell, Murray and Kilmer did not vote for November’s Initiative 502, which made possession of small amounts of pot by adults legal. The state law runs counter to the federal Controlled Substances Act, which prohibits both recreational and medical marijuana.

Pot advocates in the state have become increasingly critical of what they view as the delegation’s lack of effort to reconcile the state-federal legal conflict. Smith was the only member from Washington to sign a similar letter to Holder last year.

The eighth Democrat, Everett’s Rick Larsen, did not sign the new letter. He also opposed I-502.

Larsen is at the Paris Air Show this week at the behest of Gov. Jay Inslee. Larsen’s spokesman, Bryan Thomas, said Larsen chose not to sign because “the Department of Justice is responsible for enforcing federal laws. Congressman Larsen believes the state must work with the Department of Justice to determine a way forward.”

The delegation’s four House Republicans also opposed I-502: Dave Reichert of Auburn, Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane, Jaime Herrera Beutler of Camas and Doc Hastings of Pasco.

The state Liquor Control Board, the agency charged with creating a legal marijuana system, is expected to issue draft rules for that system July 3. Retail pot stores would open next year.

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