SEATTLE (KIRO) -- The federal government said it will not sue to stop Washington and Colorado from allowing recreational marijuana use.
In a sweeping national policy announcement, the Justice Department outlined eight top priority areas for its enforcement of marijuana laws.
They range from preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors to preventing sales revenue from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels and preventing the diversion of marijuana outside of states where it is legal under state law.
The announcement follows comments in December by President Barack Obama, who said it does not make sense for the federal government to go after recreational drug users in a state that has legalized recreational use of small amounts of marijuana.
Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson held a news conference Thursday about marijuana laws in Washington State. After the announcement that the federal government would not interfere, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and Interim Police Chief Jim Pugel released statements.
“Washington voters overwhelmingly approved the legalization of marijuana last year, a policy that I fully support,” McGinn said. “Since then, we have wondered what the course of action would be for federal officials, for whom marijuana remains an illegal substance. Today, I applaud U.S. Attorney General [Eric] Holder’s announcement that he will not interfere with the will of Washington voters. Seattle public safety officials, residents and entrepreneurs can now proceed with confidence that the will of the voters has prevailed in Washington.”
Pugel said he is "pleased that Attorney General Holder has provided clarity about the future of I-502 in Washington State. Our department will continue our mission of public safety, harm reduction, and public education encouraging safe and lawful behavior with regards to the guidelines for marijuana established by Washington voters.”
Jenny A. Durkan, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, said there has been a consistent focus on federal enforcement priorities in Western Washington, and her office has worked worked with state and local partners to ensure community safety.
“That will not change,” she said. “We will continue to enforce the Controlled Substances Act. We will continue an aggressive focus on the promotion and sale of drugs to minors, violence and the use of firearms, and the trafficking of marijuana across state or international lines. We will continue our work against organized criminal organizations and their underground economy, and against those who would use drug proceeds to fund other criminal activity.”
In their memo, federal authorities make clear that the eight priorities are:
- Preventing marijuana from going to minors
- Preventing marijuana revenue from going to criminals
- Preventing marijuana from going to states where it's still illegal
- Preventing marijuana sale from becoming a cover for selling other illegal drugs
- Preventing violence, particularly gun violence from becoming part of sales
- Preventing marijuana from creating drugged driving, and other similar public risks
- Preventing growing of pot on public lands, and mitigating environmental danger caused by pot growth on public lands
- Preventing pot possession and use on federal property