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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Washington AG 'Deeply Disappointed' By White House Comments On Marijuana

Office of the Attorney General
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson says he's ''deeply disappointed'' by comments made by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer regarding legalized marijuana.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said he’s “deeply disappointed” by comments President Trump’s spokesman made Thursday about legalized marijuana.

At a White House briefing, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said he expects “greater enforcement” of marijuana laws by the Department of Justice.

“And I think that when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing that we should be doing is encouraging people,” Spicer said. “There is still a federal law that we need to abide by.”

Spicer was speaking about recreational marijuana, not medical.

Washington and Oregon are among a handful of states that have legalized recreational pot. And Ferguson said he “will use every tool at our disposal” to defend Washington’s voter-approved marijuana marketplace.

“I take statements from the White House very seriously when they have the potential to adversely impact the people of the state of Washington and that is how I interpret this,” he said.

Oregon’s attorney general has also said she will defend her state’s marijuana legalization law.

Last week, Ferguson and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions requesting a meeting to discuss marijuana legalization.

In that letter, Inslee and Ferguson asked Sessions to keep in place the “Cole Memorandum.” That’s a policy issued under President Obama that said the Department of Justice would make marijuana enforcement a low priority in states where it was legalized as long as certain federal enforcement priorities were met. Those priorities include keeping legal marijuana out of the hands of children and from moving across state borders.

“A few years ago, the illegal trafficking of marijuana lined the pockets of criminals everywhere,” Inslee and Ferguson wrote. “Now, in our state, illegal trafficking activity is being displaced by a closely regulated marijuana industry that pays hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes.”

The letter also argues that stepping up marijuana enforcement won’t help address the opioid epidemic.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."