Washington Legislature debates regulating medical marijuana
The Washington Legislature has convened for the 2014 session, and lawmakers are busy debating further modifications to the state’s marijuana laws. As the state prepares for retail marijuana stores to start operating in the late spring or summer, lawmakers are debating the next steps for the still unregulated medical marijuana industry.
The federal government has made it clear that it will not be focusing resources prosecuting marijuana business owners who operate within the confines of a clear state regulatory structure, as long as certain areas of federal concern are not implicated. The legislature tried to create this structure for the medical marijuana program back in 2011, but the law was gutted by then-Gov. Christine Gregoire, who vetoed the portions of the law that would have regulated dispensaries and given patients ID cards and protection from arrest.
Unfortunately, rather than simply ensuring regulations for the sales of medical marijuana, the legislature is considering eroding medical marijuana patients’ protections. On February 17, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would reduce patients’ presumptive plant limits from 15 to three mature plants and reduce the baseline possession limits from 24 to three ounces, among other things. You can contact your state senator to share your thoughts on this bill by calling the legislative hotline at 800-562-6000.
Liquor Control Board finalizes rules for I-502
The Washington State Liquor Control Board, the agency charged with implementing I-502, has finalized its regulations governing the operation of marijuana businesses and is in the process of reviewing applications for marijuana establishments. More than 7,000 applications were submitted, including more than 2,800 producer (grower) applications and more than 2,200 retailer applications. The state plans to license 334 total retailers.
Washington's marijuana regulation law — which went into effect on December 6, 2012 — protects adults 21 and older in the Evergreen State from being arrested for possession and private use of up to an ounce of marijuana. However, individuals under 21 still face criminal penalties for the simple possession of marijuana. According to the ACLU, blacks in Washington are over two and a half times as likely to get arrested for marijuana possession than whites. Email your legislators and urge them to support legislation that makes marijuana possession by individuals under 21 subject to a civil fine, not jail time.
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