Sessions sends letter raising concerns over Washington's pot legalization; Inslee, Ferguson react

SEATTLE (AP) — Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson says he's disappointed with a letter from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions about the state's efforts to regulate marijuana.

In a letter dated July 24 , Sessions pointed out to Ferguson and Gov. Jay Inslee that a 2013 Justice Department memo which was interpreted as clearing the way for states to regulate marijuana did not preclude federal prosecution. Sessions also highlighted a 2016 report from a federally funded drug enforcement organization that raised questions about how effectively the state is controlling the industry.

Sessions asked Ferguson and Inslee to provide information about how they're addressing the issues raised in the report.

In a written statement Friday, Ferguson said the U.S. attorney general's letter relies on "incomplete, inaccurate and out-of-date information" about Washington's marijuana regulations. He added that "any action from the Department of Justice short of allowing our well-regulated, voter-approved system to continue is unacceptable."

Inslee issued the following statement Friday:

“Washington state has been a ground-breaking leader when it comes to implementing a whole new marketplace for recreational marijuana. I am incredibly proud of the work we’ve done to implement legalization in a way that keeps youth safe, minimizes diversion into the black market, and minimizes diversion of product out of state.

"We are learning important lessons as we go and continually looking for ways to improve our work on all fronts. It is important for our state to know the Trump Administration is willing to work with us to ensure our success on these efforts, rather than undermining our efforts and diminishing our ability to work constructively with growers and distributors.

“While Washington has been successful in creating a tightly regulated market place and generating needed revenue for the state, challenges do remain. Most importantly marijuana remains a Schedule 1 controlled substance by the federal government. This determination affects all aspects of our state systems, from banking to research to consumer safety. 

“It is clear that our goals regarding health and safety are in step with the goals Attorney General Sessions has articulated. Unfortunately he is referring to incomplete and unreliable data that does not provide the most accurate snapshot of our efforts since the marketplace opened in 2014. Our team is currently reviewing his letter, and we will have a more detailed response in the coming days. I look forward to speaking with Attorney General Sessions to make sure he fully understands everything our state is doing to accomplish our shared goals.”