A week after voters in Washington State and Colorado approved Election Day ballot measures legalizing recreational marijuana, Washington Governor Chris Gregoire got on a plane to D.C. A Democrat, Gregoire wanted to know if the new law would put her state at odds with President Obama, whose administration has raided hundreds of marijuana dispensaries in California, where medical pot has been legal under state law since 1996.
Gregoire met with U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole, who oversees enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act, the 42-year-old federal law that designates cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance, the same category as heroin and LSD. If her state's liquor control board began issuing permits to aspiring pot entrepreneurs, Gregoire wanted to know, would federal agents soon head her way? Cole didn't have the answers she wanted. "They are 'looking at the issue.' That was about the only reaction we got," says Gregoire's spokesman, Cory Curtis. Cole, who declined to be interviewed, wasn't merely stonewalling. He likely couldn't answer the question because the Department of Justice has yet to spell out a consistent policy for dealing with the growing number of states legalizing pot to some degree, in violation of federal law.