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perhaps we are all conservative
yet we take things that are offbeat and outcast at times
and propose a better life that is more inclusive

of the individuals in a society

that is the liberal way

Donald Meek Donald Meek
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letter from senator

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Dear Mr. Meek:


Thank you for writing me regarding marijuana and federal drug enforcement policy. I appreciate hearing from you on this issue.


Washingtonians have made their voices loud and clear with respect to marijuana legalization. In 1998, Washington state voters passed Initiative 692, legalizing marijuana for medical use, by a margin of 59 percent to 41 percent. Additionally, with the passage of Initiative 502 in 2012 by a margin of 56 percent to 44 percent, Washington state voters legalized the regulated production, sale, and possession of small amounts of marijuana for non-medical adult use. Through careful review and implementation, the regulated Washington state marijuana industry has provided important medical options for patients, including many of our state’s veterans, created thousands of jobs, and generated substantial state tax revenue for public health programs. 


Currently, Washington state and the federal government differ over the treatment of marijuana. As your senator, it is my job to represent the will of Washington state constituents, and I have long held that federal law enforcement should respect the decision of any state, like ours, to enact and responsibly enforce thoughtful, sensible marijuana policies that protect public health and safety. Beginning in 2013, the Department of Justice (DOJ) followed the Obama-era “Cole Memorandum,” a directive allowing states with “strong and effective regulatory systems” to address enforcement of marijuana-related activities at the state and local level. The guidance was critical in providing clarity, stability, and security for consumers and businesses in states like ours. 


In January 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole Memorandum, yet another example of the president and his administration jamming through a misguided, ideological agenda. In its place, the new DOJ policy provides “prosecutorial discretion” to U.S. Attorneys, introducing damaging uncertainty into federal policy that puts the well-regulated Washington state industry, as well as jobs, small businesses, consumers, and patients involved, at risk. I have expressed my strong opposition to this change and am working with a bipartisan group of senators to attempt to address this issue legislatively at the soonest possible opportunity. 


Additionally, I joined a bipartisan group of colleagues in writing to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, part of the Department of the Treasury, to urge it to preserve existing guidance that allows financial institutions to provide banking services for cannabis businesses in states with regulatory structures. The guidance is critical to encouraging safe commerce, discouraging illegal markets, and allowing these legal businesses to operate in full daylight. This Administration’s troubling statements and interference add urgency to our work to provide clarity at the federal level.


Moving forward, I will continue to fight for commonsense drug policy at the federal level and to defend the decisions made by Washington state voters. Again, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me, please know that I will keep your thoughts in mind. If you would like to know more about my work in the Senate, please feel free to sign up for updates at http://murray.senate.gov/updates.



Patty Murray
United States Senator

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