This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.
Is there something about marijuana that leaves Attorney General Eric Holder speechless?
It’s been more than seven months since Washington voters approved a system of regulated, licensed pot sales. But under federal law, everything about marijuana — growing, distributing and selling — is illegal.
Not since the civil rights era has there been such a stark conflict between federal and state laws.
But Holder remains mum on that conflict. State officials are reduced to trying to decipher a handful of opaque statements from the Justice Department.
Washington’s Liquor Control Board is charged with writing rules for the new industry, but its members can only go so far without knowing what Justice will do. Will it move to enforce federal law? Adopt a wink-and-a-nod toleration policy, as Holder did with “medical” marijuana? Try to legally finesse the issue with some kind of a waiver?
Local legalization is a legal dilemma, to be sure, but Justice is full of bright people who get paid a lot of money to untangle legal dilemmas. Holder has thousands of attorneys at his command; it’s hard to believe he couldn’t move faster if he wanted to.
We didn’t like Initiative 502, primarily because we’re worried that it would expand marijuana use among adolescents. But genuinely controlled legalization would be a big improvement on the status quo if it could shut down today’s black market, which readily supplies pot to any interested teenager.
Lest memories fade, we’ll note that Holder and his boss, Barack Obama, also bear heavy responsibility for the existing marijuana bazaar in Western Washington.
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