The federal government says it will not sue to stop the states of Colorado and Washington from allowing recreational marijuana use.
"Attorney General Eric Holder and the president have shown leadership which has allowed two states to show a path forward for the United States. I appreciate their efforts," said Gov. Jay Inslee in a news conference Thursday.
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.
"The eight interests of the federal government are the same as the state government ... And our system, that we have already developed, will address those eight issues," said Inslee.
The governor acknowledged the federal government and 48 other states will be paying close attention to Washington's policies.
"Show the country the way a well-regulated system can be effectuated in a state while still respecting the Controlled Substances Act," said Inslee.
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.
The announcement is a step in the right direction, according to Tom Angell, Chairman of Marijuana Majority.
"However, my optimism is tempered by the fact that despite the Justice Department's 2009 announcement that it shouldn't be a priority to bust medical marijuana providers operating in accordance with state law, this administration went on to close down more state-legal marijuana businesses in one term than the Bush administration did in two terms," Angell said in a statement.
Seattle's top federal prosecutor says Washington's medical marijuana system is "untenable" in light of new guidance from the Justice Department.
Washington continues to have a largely unregulated system of medical marijuana dispensaries.
U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan said in a statement Thursday that the "continued operation and proliferation of unregulated, for-profit entities outside of the state's regulatory and licensing scheme is not tenable and violates both state and federal law."
The action could set the stage for more states to legalize marijuana. Alaska could vote on the question next year, and a few other states plan similar votes in 2016.
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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