WASHINGTON, D.C. - White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Thursday that states should expect "greater enforcement" of the federal law on marijuana use.
At a daily briefing, Spicer said President Donald Trump understands the "pain and suffering" that many go through who face terminal diseases and knows that some drugs, including medical marijuana, can bring them comfort.
But, Spicer made clear the administration's stance on recreational marijuana.
"There's a big difference between [medical] and recreational marijuana," he said, "and I think that when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people."
Video: Spicer on marijuana
Spicer said that the Department of Justice would be looking into the issue of marijuana enforcement.
"There's still a federal law that we need to abide by when it comes to recreational marijuana and other drugs of that nature," he said.
However, during the briefing, Spicer advocated for the Republican party's stance on letting states decide the law on controversial issues such as the transgender bathroom issue. Enforcing the federal marijuana laws looks to be an apparent deviation from this traditional party stance.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson says the state is ready to fight if necessary to keep its legal marijuana.
Ferguson, who also led the states in challenging Trump's executive order on immigration, noted that he and Gov. Jay Inslee, both Democrats, previously were prepared to defend the state's legal marijuana system against any efforts by President Barack Obama's administration to shut it down. Ferguson and Inslee sent a letter last week to new Attorney General Jeff Sessions to request a meeting on the topic.
John Branch owns Ponder near Union and 24th Avenue in Seattle. He's been selling marijuana there since September 2015.
"I think undoing the will of the people of Washington state would be a big lift," said Branch.
Attorney Daniel Shortt is with the firm Harris Bricken, he represents clients who are licensed to sell marijuana in Washington state.
"I would say continue doing what you are doing, and we will wait and see. I think nothing is going to happen overnight," said Shortt. "I think the next step is to watch the Department of Justice."
Sales at licensed pot shops in Washington average nearly $4.4 million per day. That's close to $1 billion in sales so far for the fiscal year that began last July, some $184 million of which is state tax revenue.
The Associated Press contributed.