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March 5, 2013 at 12:05 PM

Author, overseer of Washington pot law downplay ex-DEA chiefs’ war on weed

Two key figures in Washington’s legal pot law said there’s nothing new or particularly relevant in the call from eight former DEA chiefs to nullify new pot laws in Colorado and Washington.

The author of Washington’s new law, Alison Holcomb said the anti-drug warriors are reprising the same arguments they used in campaigns against the two states’ new laws last year. “They’re not raising new issues. They’re arguing we need to stick with the status quo,” said Holcomb, drug policy director for the ACLU of Washington.

The federal war-on-drugs has been an “abject failure,” said Rep. Chris Hurst, D-Enumclaw, who leads state House oversight of the new law. Hurst accused the ex-DEA chiefs of “irrelevant meddling.”

A former narcotics detective, Hurst said Washington residents have the right to determine their destiny. “I stand with the citizens of Washington to try and get it right,” said Hurst, a retired police officer.

The bigger issue looming over the two states is an impending decision by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on how to respond to legal marijuana for adult recreational use. The federal government still considers marijuana a dangerous drug with no medical value, like heroin. Holder recently said his decision is imminent.

Many, including the former DEA chiefs and Holcomb, speculate that Holder may announce his policy at a Wednesday meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, D.C.

Holcomb said she has no “inside line” to the Department of Justice and no solid information on Holder’s thinking.

Also today, a United Nations drug agency urged the U.S. to fight legalized pot in Colorado and Washington because it would violate international treaties. Holcomb said that’s another issue raised year-after-year since California legalized medical marijuana in 1996. Federal officials should modify treaty obligations to allow states’ rights, she said.

The federal government should retain jurisdiction over international matters, Hurst said, and states certainly shouldn’t export marijuana to other countries. “But I think Washington state is being careful to make sure that’s not happening. Washington’s path is not an abandonment of law or civilized process. It is tight regulation and control,” Hurst said.

John McKay, former top federal prosecutor for Western Washington, said the demand by ex-DEA chiefs for a federal lawsuit against Colorado and Washington is misguided.

“I think the appropriate path is being taken in dialog between the states and the Department of Justice,” said McKay, a sponsor of I-502. “We can come to common ground here, which is we all want to get rid of drug cartels.”

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said he’s ready to respond legally if the federal government challenges Washington’s legal pot law enacted by Initiative 502.

“I understand their perspective,” Ferguson said of the U.N. agency and ex-DEA chiefs. “But my job as lawyer for the state is to uphold Initiative 502 and that’s what I intend to do.”

Nothing has changed for the Washington State Liquor Control Board, the state agency charged with implementing the new legal pot law. “We’re moving forward,” said agency spokesman Brian Smith.

The agency will hold the last of eight statewide public forums at the Kitsap Conference Center in Bremerton on Thursday evening. The agency hopes to announce next week the c0nsultants it will hire to provide weed expertise. State officials are now evaluating and scoring proposals from 54 legitimate applicants.

Comments | Topics: DEA, Eric Holder, marijuana


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