Governor-elect Jay Inslee said his incoming administration will work to convince President Obama and the federal government to allow Washington state to implement a citizens' initiative to legalize marijuana for recreational use.
During a press conference Wednesday where three leaders of the incoming governor's transition team were announced, Inslee noted during a question-and-answer session that followed that he did not personally support Initiative 502.
I-502, which allows private, recreational use of marijuana and sets up a system for the licensing and sale of the drug, passed last week with 55 percent of the vote.
"Washington has worked its will. The voters have spoken," Inslee said.
"I was not supportive of the initiative," Inslee added, but said that his administration will defend the choice made by voters on Nov. 6 and will work to implement the initiative.
"I will be working in very rational ways to convince the [Obama] administration that this is in the best interest not only of our state, but of the country," he said.
With marijuana illegal under federal law, Washington state's move to legalize marijuana falls in direct conflict with existing federal statutes.
Inslee, however, said states have long been allowed to be the incubator of new ideas.
Washington — and Colorado, where voters also approved the legalization of marijuana last week — should serve as the testing grounds for a new policy on marijuana use, he said.
"We are going to do everything we can to convince the administration," he said.
Inslee said he has not yet had direct talks with anyone in the Obama administration about the legalization question, but said his sense was the administration was giving the issue "an honest consideration."
Inslee also said he did not expect an early resolution.
"I don't want to be too optimistic," he said.