OLYMPIA — Changes to last year's recreational marijuana law that a sponsor says will make it more workable will get a hearing next week in a House committee
Rep. Christopher Hurst, D-Enumclaw, wants to shrink the distance restrictions for locating stores that sell marijuana and have the state sell store licenses at market rates to raise more money.
Under Initiative 502, a store selling recreational marijuana must be at least 1,000 feet from schools, parks and other institutions. That would so severely restrict possible locations that large areas of cities would be closed off, Hurst said. Spokane might have as few as nine locations where a store could be located, he said.
His proposal would change the restriction to 500 feet, which is currently the restriction for liquor stores.
“If we don't make it available, the criminal market is going to fill those gaps,” he said.The goal of I-502 is to drive the illegal market for marijuna out of the state, he added.
I-502 also sets a licensing fee of $1,000 for a marijuana store. Hurst's bill would allow the state Liquor Control Board to set a market value on the right to sell marijuana, which could be much higher, depending on the location. The right to set up a store in a high-end shopping mall should be worth more than the right to set up a storefront operation in a small town, he said.
He estimated the market certificate system could raise as much as $50 million for the state's general operating fund.
The bill is scheduled for a hearing next Tuesday in Hurst's Government Overssight and Accountability Committee. Because it contains potential tax revenues that could help the budget, it does not face impending deadlines to be passed by one chamber or the other to remain viable.
But it will require two-thirds approval in both chambers, because it seeks to change a successful initiative less than two years after it was passed by voters.