The Columbian / Associated Press

Oregon politicians push back against federal pot enforcement

SALEM, Ore. — Oregon’s governor said Thursday that the state will fight U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ move to roll back a lenient policy on federal enforcement of the drug.

“Voters in Oregon were clear when they chose for Oregon to legalize the sale of marijuana, and the federal government should not stand in the way of the will of Oregonians,” Gov. Kate Brown said.

Brown said the move will disrupt the state’s economy. More than 19,000 jobs have been created by the marijuana market in Oregon, which was the first state to decriminalize personal possession, in 1973. It legalized medical marijuana in 1998 and recreational use in 2014.

Oregon Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer, who is one of the chief backers of legal marijuana, urged people to mobilize against Sessions’ decision to end an Obama-era policy that allowed pot to crop up in states.

“Going against the majority of Americans — including a majority of Republican voters — who want the federal government to stay out of the way is perhaps one of the stupidest decisions the attorney general has made,” Blumenauer said.

An amendment by Blumenauer and California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher prevents the Justice Department from interfering with state medical marijuana programs. It doesn’t apply to the recreational market.

Congress recently passed a short-term funding bill that maintained the amendment. But the bill expires on Jan. 19, and Blumenauer is working to ensure it gets into the next measure, his office in Washington said.

President Donald Trump made a campaign promise not to interfere with state marijuana laws, Blumenauer said. That was echoed by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who co-sponsored legislation from New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker to legalize marijuana at the federal level.

The office of Billy Williams, the U.S. attorney for Oregon, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Williams complained in an interview last year that marijuana was being exported to states where it’s not legal. He insisted there was insufficient enforcement to prevent marijuana “diversion” and urged state officials to cooperate with his team of drug prosecutors.

State officials told Williams that the regulated marijuana market, in which pot is tracked from seed to store, was stamping out smuggling. They also described enhanced enforcement efforts, including beefing up the number of site inspectors.