Public Safety & Justice

Feds Help Washington State Run Marijuana Background Checks

April 11, 2014
 

After a year of requests, the U.S. Justice Department said Thursday it is giving Washington state access to an FBI database so it can conduct nationwide background checks on people who apply to run legal marijuana businesses.

The department said allowing the checks is consistent with its priorities in letting legal marijuana experiments in Washington and Colorado move forward — including keeping people with troublesome criminal histories out of the industry. Washington state officials started asking last April for permission to run the checks.

Without explanation, the federal agency declined to respond, even though it had allowed similar checks on medical-marijuana licensees in Colorado. Washington state eventually started issuing licenses without the nationwide background checks.

The discrepancy highlighted the difficulty the feds face as they allow the states to experiment with regulating a drug that’s long been illegal under federal law.

The Obama administration has said it wants the states to make sure pot revenue doesn’t go to organized crime and that state marijuana industries don’t become a cover for the trafficking of other illegal drugs. At the same time, federal authorities don’t want to actually help the states violate federal law.

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