What’s up with Washington Legal Marijuana??
By Ed Namowitz
When I-502 (the landmark initiative that legalized recreational marijuana for Washington State residents over the age of 21) passed, people in the state, all over the country and across the globe let out a collective cloud of smoke held 40+ years. Talk about waiting to exhale. Since that long anticipated day, we here in WA have watched the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) study the marijuana industry, get feedback from various groups concerning public safety, persuade the Federal Government to allow WA to create rules to regulate legal pot, begin issuing grow licenses and eventually hold a lottery for retail marijuana shops. Now we are told July 1st is the big day, and many people can’t help but wonder if the WSLCB and the Washington State government will actually be able to pull this off.
Shortly after the historic initiative passed, the Board released a statement saying “The initiative provides THE wslcb until December 1, 2013 to craft rules for implementation. We expect that it will take the full year to craft the necessary rules which will provide the framework for the new system”. However, in that same press release it was clear this process would be not as easy as everyone had hoped. Two main tasks they needed to accomplish before rules could be written were to ensure public safety and to obtain approval from the Federal Government. Both of these would first require the WSLCB to understand the ins-and-outs of the marijuana business.
In the coming months, the WSLCB set out to study marijuana production and consumption in order to estimate how much marijuana needed to be grown by hiring BOTEC Analysis Company. Shortly thereafter, in mid 2013 public hearings began and public safety groups including social workers and police were invited to speak. The Federal Government gave their reluctant approval in the form of a list of conditions on August 29, 2013, and the WSLCB then issued their promised rules. A 30 day license application window was opened around Thanksgiving and closed December 20, 2013. The anticipated day was just around the corner! But wait, the 2,858 license applications for growing still had to be sorted through and approved, reefer retail licenses issued, and obviously one big key step remained…growing the bud!
Not until March 5th of 2014 did Reuters report that the first marijuana growing licenses had been issued. The first went to a Spokane area resident named Sean Green, who said he could have the first bud ready to go in a short 8 weeks. However, due to such an overwhelming submission of marijuana retail store license applications, a lottery was held on April 21, 2014. Soon we learned that, even though the ranked list of lottery winners was here, the retail licenses would not actually be issued until July 1st, putting the implementation of I-502 even further behind schedule.
In addition to these hang-ups, hassles and head shakers, the issue of I-502 and Washington’s medical marijuana law has not been resolved. This will take legislative action, which failed in January and is not set to be picked back up until 2015. On top of all of this, many cities and counties around the state are passing ordinances banning retail shops. This unforeseen problem could undermine the expected tax revenue earned from the legal sale of marijuana. And, when you read the wordy statements taken from the Board’s Press Release titled “Liquor Control Board Clarifies Next Steps in it’s Preparation to Issue Marijuana Licenses”, such as “Agency rules (WAC 3214-55-075 (8)) state “if the total amount of square feet marijuana production exceeds two million square feet, the Board reserves the right to reduce all licensee’s production by the same percentage or reduce licensee production by one or more tiers by the same percentage”, one has to wonder if the WSLCB has the ability to sort out what is becoming a confusing and drawn out process.
So, here we sit and wait for an initiative passed by popular consent to be put into place by a government agency who seems to be totally clueless of how growing, processing and distributing marijuana actually works. Big surprise? But legal herb in Washington State is coming. It may be late. It may be confusing. But Washington did it, along with Colorado. These two states took the first step in ending the insane War on Weed, which in the end is a very good thing for everyone.
Several key developments have emerged since this article was written. On a good note, some cities and counties have begun issuing processing licenses and the WSLCB has stated it will look into crafting rules for legal Hash Oil and other concentrates. However, there are cities and counties banning pot shops by the day and there are repeated news stories of confusion among law enforcement and the public concerning I-502.
For more information on I-502 and its ongoing implementation, check these links out.
“Liquor Control Board Clarifies Next Steps in its Preparation to Issue Marijuana Licenses”
WA Pot Lottery Results
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