Two states rebut AG Sessions’ critiques of their cannabis laws

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Governors in at least two states that have legalized recreational marijuana are pushing back against the Trump administration and defending their efforts to regulate the industry.

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, a former Republican, sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week asking the Department of Justice to maintain the Obama administration’s more hands-off enforcement approach to states that have legalized the drug.

The letter comes after Sessions sent responses recently to the governors of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington state after they asked the attorney general to allow the cannabis experiments to continue in the first four states to legalize recreational marijuana.

Sessions’ individual responses detailed concerns he had with how effective state regulatory efforts have been.

Washington state also responded to Sessions this week.

Gov. Jay Inslee and state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said Sessions made claims about the situation in Washington state that are “outdated, incorrect or based on incomplete information.”

“If we can engage in a more direct dialogue, we might avoid this sort of miscommunication and make progress on the issues that are important to both of us,” Inslee and Ferguson wrote.

Since taking office, Sessions has promised to reconsider marijuana policy, providing a level of uncertainty for states that have legalized the drug.

A task force assembled by Sessions encouraged continued study of whether to change or rescind the approach taken under the Obama administration.

Alaska’s governor said he shared Sessions’ concerns about the dangers of drug abuse but said state rules for marijuana businesses address federal interests, including public health and safety. The governor said Sessions cited a 2015 state drug report in raising questions about Alaska’s regulations but noted the first recreational cannabis stores didn’t open until late 2016.

Alaska is taking “meaningful” steps to curb illegal cannabis use, especially by minors, Walker and state Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth wrote to Sessions.

– Associated Press