State trying to finalize marijuana laws
Liquor board’s last hearing is today in Spokane
OLYMPIA – Washington’s proposed rules for growing and selling recreational marijuana will conflict with federal drug laws and state environmental laws, critics said Wednesday.
Taxes will make the end product to be smoked or eaten too expensive, some said. The rules might favor big corporations over small producers, others said.
The Washington State Liquor Control Board, which is drafting rules to implement Initiative 502, is trying to get a final version of laws in place by mid-September. That will enable the state to start taking license applications from prospective retailers, processors and producers by October. Some cities and counties are balking.
Joyce McDonald, Pierce County Council chairwoman, said her county board wants the ability to opt out of any recreational marijuana operations because of fears it will cost the county money for enforcement and to fight the federal government.
“You cannot invalidate the Controlled Substance Act,” McDonald told the liquor board. “We’re going to be forced to fight the state or the federal government.”
But 54 percent of Pierce County voters supported I-502 last fall, liquor board member Chris Marr countered: “The majority of your citizens expect (recreational marijuana) to be available.”
Replied McDonald: “We’re a nation of laws, Mr. Marr. We cannot just throw away the law.”
Other people attending Wednesday’s three-hour hearing in Olympia said the board was ignoring the state’s environmental protection laws by not preparing an environmental impact statement on the effects of growing and selling marijuana before coming up with its rules.
“It’s a cart before the horse kind of thing,” Jerry Durkin, of Olympia, warned. “You have not studied the impacts of outdoor growing.”
The board hasn’t studied whether fees and taxes will make legal marijuana too expensive compared to the black market, or whether businesses will be able to get bank accounts or the required insurance, said Steve Sarich of the Cannabis Action Coalition.
“If you’d filed an EIS, you would have been forced to deal with those problems,” Sarich said.