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The feds say they won’t challenge Washington state’s pot law; plus, overcrowding at Coeur d’Alene schools

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Fire It Up

Pot advocates and entrepreneurs breathed a collective, if brief, sigh of relief last week when Gov. Jay Inslee announced that the federal government will not sue Washington or Colorado to stop their implementation of recreational marijuana rules.

In a phone conversation and letter, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the feds would not step in to stop the states from moving forward with their marijuana regulations, but will focus on ensuring eight specific areas are addressed. Those include preventing the sale of the drug to minors, distribution of it outside the states’ borders or the use of marijuana businesses as fronts for larger illegal activity. Preventing drugged driving and the growth of marijuana on public lands also made the list. Inslee said he shares those priorities and believes Holder will be satisfied with Washington’s regulation of the drug.

The Washington State Liquor Control Board has been crafting regulations for recreational marijuana since Initiative 502 passed last November and expects to begin issuing licenses by the end of the year.

— HEIDI GROOVER

Calling All Vets

Several military veterans service organizations — including the Spokane Vet Center, the Spokane VA Medical Center and the county Veterans Court — will present updates on benefits and answer questions on regional support programs during a public town hall meeting next week.

Colleen Gilbert with the state Department of Veterans Affairs says a panel representing local veterans services will discuss their ongoing support efforts and opportunities. They will also be available to answer questions on accessing their different programs. Gilbert says the panel will also discuss regional facility upgrades and other upcoming veterans events.

The Washington state governor’s Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee is hosting the town hall discussion. The meeting is scheduled from 6-8 pm Sept. 11 at the Spokane Vet Center at 13109 E. Mirabeau Parkway in Spokane Valley.

— JACOB JONES

Student Rush

When the Coeur d’Alene school district started the new year on Tuesday, the sheer number of students who walked through the doors posed the district with a challenge.

“I’ve been walking the schools today, getting to know teachers, and handing out apples, and we’re seeing a lot of overcrowding,” says Tom Hearn, chair of the Coeur d’Alene Board of Trustees. “I think some [classes had] 34 students in a second-grade class. … We’re bursting at the seams.”

More than 200 additional students are estimated to be in the district than the year before. The exact number will be determined this week. From there, the district has to decide whether it needs to move desks or staff members to other schools. “Students may have to be bussed and transferred across the district to make it work,” says district spokeswoman Laura Rumpler.

While the state of Idaho provides schools with per-student funding, the formula for determining that funding is typically based on last year’s attendance. So on Thursday, Hearn will meet with the rest of the board to discuss the possibility of going to the voters with an emergency levy

For his part, Hearn thinks something needs be done about the crowding issue, but isn’t willing to speak for the rest of the board. “There’s always the question of the politics of it,” he says. “Will the community be OK with a tax levy?”

There’s precedent for such a levy. In 2009, an increase of just 75 students inspired Coeur d’Alene to request emergency levy funding. And in 1992, the district used the emergency levy to manage an increase of more than 400 students.

— DANIEL WALTERS

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