Saying “the world is watching,” Gov. Jay Inslee has sent a five-page letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that outlines how Washington’s new legal marijuana system will be tightly controlled to prevent illegal activity such as state-licensed pot from leaking into other states.
The federal government considers all marijuana illegal, despite voter-approved laws in Colorado and Washington that legalize recreational use for adults. And Holder, the nation’s top law officer, has suggested that leakage of Washington weed into other states is one of the Department of Justice’s top concerns, Inslee said after a meeting last month with Holder.
Inslee’s letter, dated Feb. 12 , doesn’t offer much in the way of new details. For the most part it spells out what the state’s law calls for in the way of restrictions, safeguards, law enforcement and expertise.
“Clearly, the world is watching the states of Colorado and Washington as their initiatives are implemented. We intend to do it right,” Inslee wrote, “to minimize diversion and the illicit market.”
Inslee listed 21 separate ways in which the state will carry out the law in a thorough and disciplined manner, “with public safety being our paramount responsibility.”
Alison Holcomb, a sponsor of Initiative 502 that enacted the state’s legal pot law, praised the letter for highlighting the controls written into the law. “Everything looked accurate to me,” said Holcomb, drug policy director for the ACLU of Washington.
Calling the letter an update on strategies under consideration to prevent diversion of pot across state borders, the governor said he was “personally committed to having a well-regulated, disciplined system with tight investor controls and close coordination with law enforcement.”
The Washington State Liquor Control Board, the agency implementing I-502, has until December to come up with rules for the state’s seed-to-store system, untested on the planet.
While it’s too early to say exactly what all the rules will be, Inslee said his goal is to create a system that “minimizes the illicit market through price, access and convenience while simultaneously controlling the product.”
Some of the controls highlighted by Inslee:
- Only licensed producers, processors and retailers within the state will be allowed to sell marijuana products.
- The law only allows adults to possess, consume, grow, process or sell pot products.
- Washington state agencies are talking with Colorado officials about their tightly controlled medical marijuana system that uses bar codes to electronically track each step of the plant’s progress to market.
- Washington is also looking at private-sector models for digital tracking of products. The state’s apples, Inslee noted, can be traced from orchards through packing houses and ultimately to market.
- The state will run background checks, which are likely to include fingerprints, for license applicants and other parties of interest.
- The state will develop audits to identify reporting discrepancies by licensees.
- Non-licensed cultivation and distribution remains illegal under state law and law enforcement agencies will vigorously enforce I-502.
- The state’s high tobacco tax and experience with intercepting contraband cigarettes should help strengthen marijuana controls.
Jaime Smith, a spokeswoman for Inslee, said there are no specific next steps the governor plans to take with Holder. But Smith said the governor will continue to provide regular updates to Holder as the rules evolve and answer any questions the Department of Justice might have.