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Washington Lawmakers Ask Holder to Respect State’s Recreational-Marijuana Law
By Jennifer Koons | June 19, 2022 3:10 pm

Seven members of Washington’s congressional delegation urged Attorney General Eric Holder to “respect the will of voters” in the state, which legalized recreational marijuana use during the last election.

Initiative 502, approved by 56 percent of Washington voters in November, aims to legalize and tax the sale of marijuana to adults over the age of 21, but it is in conflict with the federal Controlled Substances Act, which makes pot possession illegal. Holder has not yet determined how the government will respond.

“As federal representatives of these states we request that your department’s course of action in this matter respect the will of the voters, and that you announce this course of action as soon as possible to assure our citizens that they will not be penalized by the federal government for activities legal under state law,” according to the letter sent Tuesday. “[W]e hope that you will exercise your significant discretionary authority by choosing not to purse preemption of these laws, or prosecute our residents and state employees acting in compliance with these laws.”

The letter was signed by Democratic Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, and Democratic Reps. Adam Smith, Jim McDermott, Suzan DelBene, Denny Heck and Derek Kilmer.

Colorado joined Washington in passing a similar measure, Amendment 64, which allows adults over 21 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana.

When testifying before a House subcommittee in April, Holder told lawmakers he would focus on how these laws might effect children.

“When it comes to these marijuana initiatives, I think among the kinds of things we will have to consider is the impact on children,” he said.

Reps. Andy Harris (R-Md.) and Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) questioned the Attorney General’s commitment to enforcing federal laws against marijuana in light of recent statewide legalization. ”Is there an added burden because of state’s making their own decisions?” Bonner asked.

“We’ve certainly continued to review the marijuana legalization passed in Washington and Colorado and we we’re certainly going to enforce criminal law,” Holder replied.


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