OLYMPIA, Washington — Seven members of Washington's congressional delegation have asked the U.S. government to respect the state's marijuana legalization effort and provide guidance about the industry's fate.
In a letter released Tuesday, the members of Congress asked the Department of Justice to not pre-empt the new law or prosecute residents acting in compliance with state law. While Washington voters approved an initiative last year to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, the substance remains illegal under federal law.
"We urge DOJ to expeditiously announce a course of action that will respect the will of these voters, and to work cooperatively with our states during the implementation of these laws," the lawmakers wrote.
The letter was signed by all of the state's Democratic members of Congress, except for U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen. None of the state's Republican representatives signed the letter.
Larsen spokesman Bryan Thomas noted that marijuana remained illegal under federal law and that the Department of Justice is responsible for enforcing federal law.
"Congressman Larsen believes the state must work with the Department of Justice to determine a way forward," Thomas said.
Washington officials are in the process of developing rules for a system that would produce, distribute and sell marijuana. Marijuana sales in Washington should begin in early 2014 unless DOJ does something to stop it.
In acknowledgment of the potential for federal officials to challenge the law, Washington state leaders have been working to craft a heavily regulated system. That includes tracking the product from seed to store to prevent any from entering the black market. The state is also working to determine how much legal weed should be produced so that there is not any excess.