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Jeff Sessions Questions Washington's Marijuana Regulations

<p>Cannabis City clerk Will Bibbs, left, helps a customer looking over a display case of marijuana products at the shop in Seattle.</p>

Elaine Thompson

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Cannabis City clerk Will Bibbs, left, helps a customer looking over a display case of marijuana products at the shop in Seattle.

Washington state leaders are criticizing a letter from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on the state’s regulation of recreational and medical marijuana.

His letter cites a 2016 report from the Northwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a federal drug enforcement organization, that raises concerns about the effectiveness of the state’s marijuana laws.

“The Department remains committed to enforcing the Controlled Substances Act in a manner that efficiently applies our resources to address the most significant threats to public health and safety,” Sessions wrote in the July 24 letter.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson called Sessions’ letter disappointing and claims it relies on old data.

“Much of the information comes from a time when Washington hadn’t even legalized marijuana yet,” Ferguson said by phone Friday afternoon. “So that information is largely irrelevant if they rely on it for the statements he’s making.”

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee released a statement responding to the letter from Sessions, mostly praising the state’s work on regulating marijuana.

"We are learning important lessons as we go and continually looking for ways to improve our work on all fronts," Inslee said in the statement. "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."

Inslee said he hopes to speak with Sessions on the topic in the near future.

Sessions’ letter was in response to three previous letters, sent on Feb. 15, 2017, April 3, 2017, and May 8, 2017, from Ferguson and Inslee requesting a face-to-face meeting.

Copyright 2017 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Molly Solomon