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Politics Northwest

The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

August 22, 2013 at 12:11 PM

Pot consultant offers solution to government standoff

Mark Kleiman, the state’s top pot consultant, has suggested a way to end the lingering tension between Washington’s new recreational pot law and the federal government, which considers all marijuana illegal.

And state Attorney General Bob Ferguson did not dismiss Kleiman’s idea. Ferguson said the AG’s office “has done their own examination” of Kleiman’s proposal and “it’s too soon to say” if it has traction with decision-makers.

Ferguson did not want to reveal any more about the state’s discussions with the federal Department of Justice. “I’m not ready to get into more detail about what communication is going on with the feds,” Ferguson said.

In an article published Wednesday in the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis, Kleiman said the DOJ now seems to have three options: cracking down on legalized pot in Washington and Colorado, acquiescing to legalization, or “muddling through”  with its current policy of only saying it continues to review new laws in those two states.

Kleiman sees two better alternatives.

One is for the federal government to grant pot policy waivers to Washington and Colorado, as it did with states wanting to experiment with welfare reform in the 1990s. But that requires congressional approval, which Kleiman believes is unlikely in the short term.

The other is for the Obama administration to sign contractual agreements with Colorado and Washington, in which the states would vow to help the feds clamp down on illegal growers and exporters in exchange for the feds allowing their legal systems to move ahead. Kleiman said such contracts are allowed under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

Kleiman contends that the Drug Enforcement Administration lacks the resources to enforce pot laws across the country; it needs help from state and local law enforcement. “When two parties can help each other, there’s the basis for a bargain. And the law provides for precisely such a bargain,” said Kleiman, a UCLA professor and co-author of “Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know.”

While Kleiman believes his contractual idea is the best way for the feds to allow legal pot in Washington and Colorado, he predicted the feds would continue with the “waffling option.”

He said he did not speak with Ferguson or the state Liquor Control Board, the agency implementing a regulated recreational marijuana system,  about his proposals. A spokesman for the Liquor Control Board declined to comment.

Comments | More in Marijuana, Politics Northwest | Topics: Bob Ferguson, department of justice, marijuana

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