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Pot harder for kids to buy than booze, even as prices fall

FILE - A variety of "edibles" are available at a Spokane marijuana retailer. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
FILE - A variety of "edibles" are available at a Spokane marijuana retailer. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

OLYMPIA – Minors may have a slightly easier time buying booze or cigarettes than pot at stores licensed by the state.

State agents doing checks for all three restricted products said licensed marijuana stores passed tests for selling to underage buyers 90 percent of the time. For stores that sell liquor, the compliance rate was 86 percent, and for tobacco sales slightly lower, said Justin Nordhorn, enforcement chief for the Liquor and Cannabis Board, which oversees all three products.

Making sure that the state’s legal marijuana stays out of the hands of minors is a key to meeting current U.S. Justice Department guidelines for having something legal in Washington that’s illegal under federal law, board Director Rick Garza told the House Commerce and Gaming Committee. How that will change under the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump is unclear, he told a work session the panel held Friday to prepare for the 2017 session.

The state currently has more than 1,200 licensed growers and processors and 462 licensed marijuana stores, Garza said. In the fiscal year that ended June 30, it recorded almost $1 billion in sales. For the current fiscal year, that’s expected to hit $1.3 billion, even though the price of marijuana is falling.

When state-licensed marijuana stores first opened in 2014, pot was selling for about $30 a gram, he said. The current price averages $8.61 a gram.

That’s low enough to crowd out some illegal drug dealers, said committee Chairman Christopher Hurst, a former law enforcement officer.

The board’s staff continues to develop regulations as the industry expands. In January, the state Agriculture Department will begin spot testing marijuana for pesticides, and in February edible marijuana products will have to carry a sticker with a red hand that says: “Not for Kids.”

The board recently has been getting requests from caterers about a license to set up a “weed bar” to serve infused products to guests, said Becky Smith, the board’s chief of licensing.

The partygoers are out of luck, she said: “It’s not allowed.”



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Canada to legalize marijuana on Oct. 17

UPDATED: 8:26 p.m.

Marijuana will be legal nationwide in Canada starting Oct. 17 in a move that should take market share away from organized crime and protect the country’s youth, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday.