It was disappointing to learn Gov. Chris Gregoire gutted legislation that would reform Washington's medical marijuana laws.
Disappointing but justified.
Two U.S. attorneys had threatened to prosecute any state worker attempting to comply with the bill's provisions.
Gregoire was reluctant to force that risk onto state employees. "I think that would be highly irresponsible on my part," she told The Associated Press last week.
Unfortunately, she's right.
It's unfair to ask state workers to jeopardize their liberty simply by carrying out their official duties, which is exactly what would have happened if the bill became law.
That's the Hobson's choice -- meaning no choice at all -- that the Obama administration has given Gregoire.
It's a marked shift away from candidate Obama's position, which held out hope that medical marijuana users could obtain their medicine without fear of federal agents.
"The Justice Department going after sick individuals using this as a palliative instead of going after serious criminals makes no sense," Obama said on the campaign trail.
And two years ago, the U.S. Department of Justice issued new formal guidelines that conformed with the campaign rhetoric, bringing an end to federal raids in Washington and other states that permit the use of medical marijuana.
But that was then, and this is now.
Today, sick individuals using marijuana to relieve their suffering would be smart to start worrying about the feds again.
Recent experience here and in other medical marijuana states indicates that the threat Gregoire fielded from federal agents is anything but idle.
Just last week, federal agents staged a series of raids on medical marijuana dispensaries in Spokane. It's a scene that's been repeated in Montana and California.
Colorado also is in the federal government's sights. Gov. John Hickenlooper and some Colorado lawmakers were recently warned not to pass bills that would help seriously ill residents of that state obtain marijuana.
Hugh Spitzer, a University of Washington law professor and one of the state's top constitutional scholars, doesn't believe there's much chance federal agents would arrest state workers for regulating medical marijuana in Washington, the Spokesman Review reported.
In a letter to Gregoire, Spitzer described warnings from U.S. Attorneys Mike Ormsby of Spokane and Jenny Durkan of Seattle as federal "bullying that would never escalate beyond threats to actual arrests."
We were tempted to side with Spitzer and call for the governor to sign the bill.
Reform sorely is needed. State voters approved the use of medical marijuana for cancer patients and other seriously ill people who could benefit from its use.
But the measure was so full of holes that it's virtually impossible to obtain marijuana legally, even when a doctor recommends it.
The Legislature, to its credit, had approved a reasonable fix for the state's flawed medical marijuana laws.
Our sentiments are with state Sen. Jerome Delvin, Republican from Richland's 8th Legislative District. "The feds should butt out and mind their own business," he recently told his Senate colleagues.
But until the Obama administration takes Delvin's advice and returns to its once sane approach to this issue, it's unfair to ask state workers to test the federal government's resolve.