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In 2012, Washington and Colorado voters made history when they approved measures to legalize recreational marijuana. Washington Initiative 502 “authorizes the state liquor board to regulate and tax marijuana for persons twenty-one years of age or older.”Since the vote in Washington, the Liquor Board has written a complex set of rules for the state’s new, legal recreational cannabis marketplace. The agency has also set limits on the amount of marijuana that can be grown. And the Board has begun to license growers, processors and retailers.For now, the Obama administration has signaled it will not interfere with Washington and Colorado’s legal pot experiment, unless there is evidence that legal pot is “leaking” to other states or children are getting access to the legal product. The feds are also watching to see if criminal organizations exploit the legal market.The first marijuana retail stores in Washington opened in July 2014.Recreational marijuana is also set to become legal in Oregon on July 1, 2015 after voters approved Measure 91 in November 2014.

U.S. Senate To Hold Hearing On State Pot Legalization

Architect of the Capitol

The conflict between federal law and pot legalization in Washington and Colorado will be on the agenda in Congress this week.

The long scheduled hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary committee comes less than a week after the Department of Justice announced it will not sue to stop Washington and Colorado from legalizing pot.

The DOJ did outline eight enforcement priorities. They include keeping proceeds from legal marijuana businesses out of the hands organized crime rings.

But Washington Governor Jay Inslee and state Attorney General Bob Ferguson warn that will be difficult to enforce if marijuana businesses can’t open a bank account. Currently banks can run afoul of federal law if they accept deposits from drug sales. In written testimony to the Judiciary committee, Inslee and Ferguson urge the Department of Justice to give federal banking regulators more guidance in this area.

They also ask Congress to consider passing the Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act. It would allow banks to accept deposits from licensed marijuana operators who comply with state law.

On the Web:

Hearing: Conflicts between State and Federal Marijuana Laws - US Senate

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."