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What may cause AG Holder to break his silence on WA’s pot legalization

UCLA Professor Mark Kleiman's most promising idea: Sign a contract with the feds that says the White House promises not to notice that we're violating federal law, and in exchange, we promise that pot grown in Washington stays in Washington. (AP Photo/File)

State lawmakers are still working on the regulations for the new marijuana market – and their chief consultant is UCLA Professor Mark Kleiman, who has some novel ideas about how to get the feds to accept, or at least tolerate Washington’s laws.

His most promising idea: Sign a contract with the feds saying the White House promises not to notice that we’re violating federal law, and in exchange, we promise that pot grown in Washington stays in Washington.

In other words, we pledge to do our best to keep the pot out of interstate commerce, which would mean that under the constitution’s commerce clause, it would be none of the federal government’s business.

Kleiman told KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross the commerce clause will insure that whatever state has “the loosest” marijuana laws won’t affect the entire country.

His model for Washington’s marijuana regulation was born out of 1990’s welfare reform. “A number of states in the 90’s wanted to try something other than the conventional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (welfare program.) They were allowed to apply to the Secretary of Health and Human Services for waivers from federal policy.”

For welfare, and for marijuana legalization, Kleiman says the states can act as laboratories of democracy, but only if we let them.

Kleiman’s idea is that as long as you can limit your marijuana market to Washington state, then you’re free to do that, but that may not be the only provision the federal government would want on the books.

“They may want to worry about highway safety, they may want to worry about access to kids – there are lots of agreements that could be made. But yeah, the bottom line would be – the state agrees to run a controlled system, the feds agree to let it run.”

So far, the U.S. Justice Department has been silent on the issue. Kleiman says Holder’s silence won’t last forever, but it could last much longer than you think it would.

“People are criticizing the Attorney General for not saying anything […] but he can’t say we’re enforcing the law completely because he doesn’t have the bodies. He can’t say we’re going to ignore the federal law because he has an oath to uphold it,” says Kleiman.

As far as Holder breaking his silence, Kleiman hopes that he finally gives the AG something to say.

It sounds like something the feds should consider and according to Dave Ross, it’s a face-saving, constitution-respecting compromise. While Kleiman isn’t a lawyer, he says that his lawyer friends believe his plan should work.

Dave Ross on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM

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About the Author

Alyssa Kleven

Alyssa Kleven is an editor and content producer at She enjoys doting over her adorable dachshund Winnie - named for Arcade Fire front-man Win Butler.


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