Thursday, December 1, 2011

Gregoire picks pot fight with the feds

Posted on Thu, Dec 1, 2011 at 11:17 AM

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire made news around the state when she proposed raising the sales tax last week. But she made news around the world yesterday when she proposed defining marijuana as something other than the most dangerous drug known to humanity. 

Gregoire, a Democrat, joined Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, a Republican-leaning independent, in calling on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to reclassify pot so doctors can prescribe it and pharmacists can dispense it. Currently, marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug, along with LSD and heroin. The two governors want it in Schedule 2, with cocaine, oxycodone and morphine.

Gregoire has been engaged in this discussion for some time. But last spring, after the state Legislature voted to allow state-sanctioned dispensaries to sell it to doctor-approved patients, Gregoire vetoed the bill, saying state employees would be at risk of being prosecuted under federal law — mainly because the drug is defined so harshly.

Last week, before she joined the "bipartisan, bi-coastal" effort, The Inlander spoke with her on a number of issues. During that interview, we asked her about Initiative 502, which would fully legalize, regulate and tax marijuana in the state. She, unsurprisingly, was unsupportive. Here's the exchange:

INLANDER: What do you think of the initiative to legalize marijuana? 

GREGOIRE: I don't know what we'd think we'd get out of that. What I think is very clear by the way, is all the work last year that I took in good faith to be based on medical marijuana, wasn't. It was based on legalizing marijuana. I'm glad we're being open and honest about it now. Meanwhile, I continue to be concerned about medicinal marijuana. And I do think the country needs, at minimum, to step up to that issue. I think it's wrong when someone needs it and they can't go down to their local pharmacist and get it. I just think that's wrong. If we legalize it, well, then we have the feds in here making arrests and so on and so forth. So I'm not sure to what end we think this will bring us.  

If the initiative did pass, how hard would the federal government come down on us? Would that hurt our state?

Once you have a number of arrests … some of the big abusers clamp down and go underground. That's what I think we'll see happen. The feds aren't just going to sit idly by and let this happen. They're going to come in and they're going to enforce. I really think that we should be more focused, candidly, on getting ourselves out of the worst economic crisis in modern time, the worst since the Great Depression. That's where my attention lies, and I would think most people's attention lies there, rather than picking a fight with the federal law enforcement.

But it looks like now Gregoire is ready to pick a fight with the feds, if on a bit different territory. 

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