In a rapid turn of events, the FBI just agreed to give Washington State access to its background databases to allow Washington’s Liquor Control Board to better vet I-502 applicants and existing licensees. The FBI had previously said that it wouldn’t perform such checks without giving a clear firm reason for its refusal. The FBI will now assist the Liquor Control Board with criminal background checks, a welcome step in legitimizing the recreational marijuana business.
The FBI’s participation is ultimately a good thing despite what some conspiracy theorists may believe. These national, more comprehensive checks help to keep the industry clean as legalization sweeps the nation. In the tea leaves from the Federal government, it looks like the Feds are actually interested in the routine and uniform vetting of marijuana entrepreneurs. The FBI gave a statement that 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.”
The FBI will not be running these checks themselves. Instead, as reported by Gene Johnson at the AP, the FBI emphasized that “the nationwide background checks don’t give the businesses or the states that regulate them a free pass: They’re still expected to meet eight federal law enforcement priorities the DOJ outlined in a memo last summer.”
More and more states will be looking to the FBI for background checking information as medical and recreational marijuana becomes legal in their jurisdictions. It is a rare and valued moment when the states and the Feds can work together over marijuana reform and, though today’s announcement are just baby steps, it does mean that even the Feds are still moving in the right direction.