Inslee meets with U.S. Attorney General to talk about Washington's efforts on legal marijuana

Gov. Jay Inslee met with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in Washington, D.C. Tuesday to talk about the state's plan to allow the sale of marijuana for personal use.

Washington voters approved Initiative 502 in November, which provides for the legal sale and personal use of marijuana.

The use and possession of marijuana, however, remains illegal under federal law.

Inslee and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson met with Holder to explain how Washington authorities would work to prevent legal marijuana from "leaking" outside the Evergreen State.

The governor also said he provided Holder with a three-page memo that outlines the work expected of state employees as they develop rules to allow the legal sale and use of marijuana. State officials have long been concerned that state employees could face prosecution at the federal level for their participation in any efforts that provide greater access to the illegal drug. The state will be involved in licensing marijuana growers and marijuana sales, and must also set up a regulatory system that includes the collection of revenue from marijuana sales.

Holder did not share any opinions on what he thought of the legalization of marijuana in Washington, or if the federal government would challenge the state's efforts in court, Inslee said.

Still, the conversation was welcome, the governor said.

"We very much appreciate his willingness to consider in great detail the particulars of this initiative," Inslee told reporters during a conference call Tuesday afternoon.

Inslee said he was encouraged by the discussion, and said he was committed to upholding the will of the voters on I-502.

"We're going to continue the path were on," Inslee said.

I-502 was approved in November with a 55 percent "yes" vote. The proposal passed by a landslide on Bainbridge Island, and I-502 collected more than 70 percent of the vote in eight of the island's 22 precincts.

Inslee said he expects Washington will get a fair evaluation of its efforts by the U.S. Attorney General, and more discussions on the topic are possible in the coming months.

"We want to continue this conversation to remove any doubts that might exist," Inslee said.

He also said the state expects to finish its rule-making effort on legal marijuana by early this summer, with licenses being issued in August.

Ferguson said he hoped the federal government would provide greater clarity in the months ahead on its view of Washington's move toward legal marijuana.

He also said a team of lawyers in his office has been working on the state's legal strategy in the event that the federal government does challenge Washington's implementation of I-502.

That said, Washington hopes to find a way to implement I-502 without a court battle with the federal government.

"We want to avoid a legal fight here. We want to find a pathway for working with the federal government," Ferguson said.

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