Marijuana legalization: ‘Each state has its own challenges,’ says Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson

Marijuana legalization: ‘Each state has its own challenges,’ says Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson

Oregon voters evaluating the marijuana legalization initiative on the November ballot have at least one advantage, says Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson:

They can look to the examples set by Washington and Colorado, the first states in the country to legalize the drug for recreational use.

“From Oregon’s standpoint … seeing what Washington and Colorado are doing can only be a benefit,” said Ferguson, who on Tuesday met with The Oregonian editorial board.

Ferguson, a Democrat who was elected in 2012, said no other issue has occupied his time like marijuana has. He said he is asked about the state’s marijuana policy wherever he goes. He spent much of last year trying to keep the federal government from challenging the state’s marijuana law.

His office also has been involved in the legal battle over whether local governments have a right to ban recreational pot shops. (Oregon’s Measure 91 includes a provision that would allow a local government to opt out if voters in that community approve the ban.)

One key issue raised in the legal fight in the community of Fife, Wash., is whether the federal prohibition on marijuana overrides state law. If the Washington Supreme Court ultimately rules that federal law pre-empts state law on the issue of marijuana, it could have major implications for other states with legal marijuana laws, said Ferguson.

Washington’s experience with legal recreational marijuana is so new that it’s hard to evaluate how well it’s going, he said.

“We have taken a methodical approach to it, which in my view is working out well for us,” he said. “I know a lot of folks want us to move quicker on getting it rolled out. My view is I would rather go slow and get it right than be in a hurry. It’s complicated.”

“Hey, no rollout is going to be perfect,” he added. “It’s unique.”

He said the Washington Liquor Control Board, which regulates the recreational marijuana program, has drafted tight rules on packaging of marijuana-infused products, an issue Colorado has grappled with. He said ensuring state approval of edible packaging slows the process of getting products into the market, but will “hopefully help avoid having kids like my 6-year-old twins (from) grabbing a marijuana-infused cookie.”

As for his view of the upcoming legalization measure in Oregon, Ferguson said he’d leave that “to the good people of Oregon – and my mother-in-law who lives here as well.”

How is his mother-in-law voting?

“I don’t know, actually,” he said, laughing. “I will have to ask her.”

— Noelle Crombie

Marijuana news.

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