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WA Lege Day 29: Is there $200M a year in legalized pot?

OLYMPIA – Washington state could collect about $200 million a year by legalizing marijuana, then regulating, taxing and selling it in state liquor stores, a legislative panel was told Tuesday.

But  the state could also wind up with no money and any liquor store employee who rang up a marijuana sale facing five years in federal prison, the chairman of the House Public Safety Committee warned.

The committee spent about two hours Tuesday morning considering House Bill 1550, a version of the perennial push for the state to legalize marijuana, or cannabis as the sponsors prefer to call the plant. Under the plan, any adult could smoke marijuana, grow their own in a plot no bigger than 50 square feet, and the state would regulate and sell the drug at liquor stores. Farmers could also grow hemp, which comes from the plant.



If passed, this would put the state in the forefront efforts to legalize marijuana, which remains an illegal and controlled substance under federal law. That would be a good thing as other states follow suit, said Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, D-Seattle, the prime sponsor.

“Why shouldn’t Washington reap the benefits of legalization,” asked Dickerson, who estimated the state could collect $400 million per biennium from taxes and sales. She likened home-grown marijuana to home-brewing of beer and wine making.