Washington senators join effort urging DOJ to be hands off on state pot laws

On the same day U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he was recusing himself from investigations related to the 2016 Election, Washington lawmakers signed their names to a bipartisan letter directed to his office pushing for a clarification of the Department of Justice’s policies on legal marijuana.

U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell signed the letter, along with nine other lawmakers.

In the letter, lawmakers urge the DOJ to be thoughtful in its approach to dealing with legal marijuana in states where the drug is regulated:

“It is essential that states that have implemented any type of practical, effective marijuana policy receive immediate assurance from the DOJ that it will respect the ability of states to enforce thoughtful, sensible drug policies in ways that do not threaten the public’s health and safety. This ensures that state infrastructure, including tax revenue, small businesses, and jobs, can be protected; DOJ resources can be used most effectively; and most importantly, that marijuana can be properly regulated to improve public health and safety,” reads the letter.

The letter comes in response to comments made by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer last week. Though he didn’t offer a specific policy plan, Spicer indicated the White House would take a more aggressive stance on recreational marijuana.

“I do believe you will see greater enforcement of it,” he told reporters about retail marijuana.

Since then, Sessions has also made comments indicating he was not necessarily warm to the idea of legalized weed. He was quoted in Politico as saying:

“Most of you probably know I don’t think America is going to be a better place when more people of all ages and particularly young people start smoking pot,” Sessions said to reporters. “I believe it’s an unhealthy practice and current levels of THC in marijuana are very high compared to what they were a few years ago.”

But Wednesday the Washington Post published a story revealing Sessions had twice been in contact with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the presidential campaign, even though he said he had no contacts with Russian government officials while under oath during his Senate confirmation hearing.

Sessions acknowledged the meetings at a press conference held Thursday afternoon, but insisted he simply hadn’t considered the meetings as relevant to the question he was asked during his confirmation.

Here’s that press conference via CNN:

Sessions has yet to specify his policy plans regarding marijuana, but lawmakers and cannabis business leaders continue to push back against the federal government, asking for the DOJ and White House to respect states’ rights.

Read the full letter from Congress members to Sessions here.

Erin Fenner: erin@washingtonstatewire.com, @erinfenner

The Morning Wire: Keeping you informed on Washington politics, policy, and political economy