Gov. Chris Gregoire said today she will not sign a bill to create licensed medical marijuana dispensaries, after she received a letter from Washington state's two U.S. attorneys asserting the illegality of pot at the federal level.
The letter — dated yesterday from the federal government's top prosecutors in the state, Michael Ormsby and Jenny Durkan — states that "growing, distributing, and possessing marijuana in any capacity ... is a violation of federal law regardless of state laws permitting such activities."
Two weeks ago, Ormsby sent out a letters the landlords of dispensaries, saying they could face penalties if they allowed the cannabis shops to remain open. In an interview yesterday, Ormsby said that "many of the landlords, I'm happy to say, have taken action."
But apparently, it wasn't enough. Yesterday's letter, written on Ormsby's letterhead, says that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder had been consulted, and that "state employees who conducted activities mandated by the Washington legislative proposals would not be immune from liability" under the federal Controlled Substances Act.
Many have pointed out that this recent action is in contradiction to policies already laid out by Holder and President Obama. In 2009, Holder's deputy attorney general wrote that federal resources would not be focused on people who are "in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana."
Still others have suggested that Gregoire requested the recent letter to offer her cover to veto the bill.