The mysterious federal reaction

To judge from the reactions on the conference call/press conference this afternoon from Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson, the main emotion must be relief.

That, when they conversed with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, their heads weren’t bitten off in a rage at Washington’s voters deciding that marijuana should be legal.

The conversation was pleasant, and – from their description – Holder seemed to be more in listening than in talking mode.

They have a number of things to talk about. There was nothing “dispositive,” Inslee said, on the big one: Whether the feds plan to go after Washingtonians who start doing what Washington law (though not federal law) now says is legal. What about people who sink money into businesses that the new state law contemplates will be basic parts of the process needed to make the law work? No one knows.

Two points Inslee did mention about subjects of under discussion, however, are of interest.

One is what Washington will do to “contain” state-legal marijuana, to keep it from being exported across state lines. (He said that the Washington State Patrol, among other organizations, are considering the question.) The other was the possibility of a federal lawsuit aimed at Washington (and presumably Colorado as well), though what it would seek, exactly, isn’t clear. That a judge order a state to throw out a state law because the feds don’t like it? Seemingly improbable, but Ferguson indicated that a team of attorneys are looking into defenses for the state if a lawsuit should materialize.

Inslee said he expects to chat again with Holder: “This is the first of what I think will be a continuing series of discussions,” he said. That may be the most clearly predictable point right now. – Randy Stapilus

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