Pot: T’is the season to make laws

Alaska and Oregon are in the process of developing regulations for legal recreational marijuana. In Oregon, arrests for pot will stop in July of 2015, but licenses for growing and selling won’t be issued until January 2016. That’s six months that helps the largest marijuana retailer in Washington, Vancouver’s New Vansterdam store.

Oregon is scrambling to develop regs for hemp farms which want to get the growing season started, part of the law the voters passed. Hemp is a cannabis plant, but has no intoxicating THC.

The Colorado General Assembly has about 29 bills in the works, most of them clean-up and accounting issues. One reporter thought the lack of bills reflects a “marijuana fatigue” on the part of the lawmakers.

The Washington Legislature has a lot of work to do, though. There are 106 bills as the session opens; while a lot are clean-ups and accounting issues, the Big One is SB-5519 which addresses the Washington Medical Marijuana Mess. The strategy here is to issue 502 licenses to medical marijuana providers, forgo the state taxes for medical marijuana, and allow home grows. And some other things.

I watched the first hearing in committee today, and no one spoke against the bill in it’s whole. Some folks had specific objections to certain provisions, but everyone is hoping it passes. Even with it’s glitches, it will be better than what exists now.

The City of Seattle supports the bill, and especially likes the change from 1000 feet to 500 feet the distance from a marijuana facility to schools and parks. At 1000 feet it was difficult to find places to place just a handful of I-502 operations. Adding more facilities to support regulated medical operations would be almost impossible.

Even with a 500 foot rule, Seattle will still have a problem siting facilities, but I don’t think that’s their true motive. They’re looking for state-sanctioned laws that allow them to evict the illegal medical facilities which are basically functioning as a black market.

Two months ago the city was in panic mode because they had around 330 illegal facilities in the city. Today, in front of the committee, the Seattle rep said the number was around 100. Once this bill passes, Seattle will have to arrange for either 300 or 90 marijuana growers and sellers to abandon their operations and go away. This won’t be pretty at all.

SB-5519 pulls the plug on the black market, but it does so at great expense to the medical community. It helps I-502 businesses a lot, and of course the tax revenues.

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