Washington state readies to defend booming marijuana business from feds

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Each year, more than 100,000 marijuana plants are grown, processed and packaged in one industrial warehouse in Olympia, Washington. And it’s all legal.

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Jerry Derevyanny

CBS News

“I think a lot of people would be surprised to see what a good recreational facility looks like,” said Jerry Derevyanny of Northwest Cannabis Solutions, the state’s leading pot producer earning $21 million last year.

“I think that a lot of politicians … have realized that even if they don’t personally like marijuana, that this is the better way forward,” he said.

In 2012, Washington became one of the first of eight states and the District of Columbia to legalize recreational marijuana. It’s now a $2 billion business that has raked in $478 million in taxes.

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States where recreational marijuana is legal

CBS News graphic

But the federal government puts cannabis in the same category as heroin, and in a departure from the Obama administration, more aggressive enforcement may be coming.  

“I reject the idea that America will be a better place if can just have more marijuana and you can go down to the grocery store and get it,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in March.

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson says it would be “deeply troubling” if federal raids were conducted against growing operations in his state.

Ferguson has already fought President Trump on his travel ban in court and won, so he says he is prepared to go toe-to-toe with the administration again.

“The Trump administration should respect what states are doing. We’re the laboratories of democracy,” Ferguson said.

But if the multi-state experiment is not accepted at a federal level, the budding marijuana business could soon take a hit.