SEATTLE -- Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire said Tuesday that the federal government still hasn't decided whether to take action to block new laws legalizing marijuana in her state and Colorado.
Gregoire met with Deputy Attorney General James Cole in Washington, D.C. Gregoire told Cole she would prefer to know "sooner rather than later," because Washington is in the process of getting ready to decriminalize pot, which is still illegal under federal law.
"I told them, 'Make no mistake, that absent an injunction of some sort, it's our intent to implement decriminalization,"' Gregoire told The Associated Press. "I don't want to spend a lot of money implementing this if you are going to attempt to block it."
Initiative 502 passed past last week with 55 percent of the vote in Washington. It decriminalizes the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana beginning Dec. 6. The state would license the growing, processing and labeling of marijuana, but state officials have a year to come up with those rules before sales can begin.
Gregoire spokesman Cory Curtis said Monday that the meeting was added to a slate the governor had already scheduled in the nation's capital on other state matters. But on the issue of marijuana, Curtis said Gregoire wanted to meet with federal officials because "we want direction from them."
"Our goal is to respect the will of the voters, but give us some clarity," he said.
"Our biggest concern is that the state has a fairly big startup cost in creating the whole licensing and regulating scheme around this," Curtis said. "We want some sort of clarity on this before we get a year down the road on the process."
In Washington, home-growing marijuana for recreational reasons remains barred, as does the public display or use of pot. The measure also establishes a standard blood test limit for driving under the influence, and Gregoire said the Washington State Patrol has to begin training officers to enforce that portion of the measure.
Gregoire said she promised to keep the Justice Department fully informed as to the progress the state is making in implementing the new marijuana law.
Gregoire went to D.C. on Monday for a meeting with the Council of Governors and Army Lt. Gen. Frank Grass at the Pentagon to discuss National Guard issues, and for another meeting with Energy Secretary Steven Chu to discuss plans to deal with a leak at a large, double-walled tank of waste at Hanford, the nation's most contaminated nuclear site.
Gregoire will return to Washington state on Tuesday night.