WASHINGTON -- The federal government says it will not sue to stop the states of Colorado and Washington from allowing recreational marijuana use.
In a sweeping national policy announcement, the Justice Department outlined eight top priority areas for its enforcement of marijuana laws.
They range from preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors to preventing sales revenue from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels and preventing the diversion of marijuana outside of states where it is legal under state law.
Document: Read guidance from the Justice Department about Washington's pot law
The announcement follows comments in December by President Barack Obama, who said it does not make sense for the federal government to go after recreational drug users in a state that has legalized recreational use of small amounts of marijuana.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson will hold a press conference at 11:30 a.m. Thursday to provide more information on the announcement from the federal government.
Statement from Seattle Police Interim Chief Jim Pugel:
“I am pleased Attorney General Eric Holder has provided clarity about the future of Initiative 502 in Washington state. Our department will continue our mission of public safety, harm reduction and public education encouraging safe and lawful behavior with regards to the guidelines for marijuana established by Washington voters.“
Statement from Inslee and Ferguson:
"Today we received confirmation Washington's voter-approved marijuana law will be implemented. We received good news this morning when Attorney General Eric Holder told the governor the federal government would not pre-empt Washington and Colorado as the states implement a highly regulated legalized market for marijuana. Attorney General Holder made it clear the federal government will continue to enforce the federal Controlled Substance Act by focusing its enforcement on eight specific concerns, including the prevention of distribution to minors and the importance of keeping Washington-grown marijuana within our state's borders. We share those concerns and are confident our state initiative will be implemented as planned.
"We want to thank the Attorney General for working with the states on this and for finding a way that allows our initiative to move forward while maintaining a commitment to fighting illegal drugs. This reflects a balanced approach by the federal government that respects the states' interests in implementing these laws and recognizes the federal government's role in fighting illegal drugs and criminal activity.
"Attorney General Holder also expressed a willingness to work with the states on a financial structure that would not run afoul of federal law. The news today is an affirmation of good work by the state Liquor Control Board as it has devised a responsible system of implementing our voter-approved law. We can assure the Attorney General that Washington state will remain vigilant in enforcing laws against the illicit marijuana market. Since voters approved Initiative 502 last year, the state has been working to implement it. Today's announcement from Attorney General Holder is a confirmation that the process can continue to move forward as planned. We appreciate that the federal government will allow the voice of Washingtonians to be heard on this issue."