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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

WaLeg Day 71: Pot vending machines? Drive-thru sales? Research licenses?

OLYMPIA – Voter approval of recreational marijuana didn’t close off legislative discussions on pot, it merely provided a springboard into new questions, sessions in House committees proved Monday.

Should the state allow customers to pick up their recreational marijuana at a drive-through window? Doesn’t happen anywhere right now, but Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, is afraid it might someday. The Senate unanimously approved a bill that says they couldn't, and the House Commerce and Gaming Committee took a similarly dim view.

Should customers be able to buy at a vending machine?  The same bill would ban the machines, which aren't in use in Washington right now. Bailey is also worried that some day they will be, and minors would get access to marijuana through them.

“This is all about our kids,” Bailey said.

Members of Commerce and Gaming weren’t so convinced, considering the machines would be in state licensed stores, which already bar minors. They suggested the state could OK machines in licensed stores with sophisticated software that reads a driver’s license to check age, matches the photo on the card with the person at the machine through facial recognition and limits the amount any one customer can buy in a 24-hour-period.

But the machines couldn’t stock any edible pot products that the state restricts for fear they could easily be mistaken as something else and eaten by children, committee members said.

Representatives of American Green said that was doable. They've spent about $2 million developing such a device, which they call a verified vending platform, not a vending machine.

Should customers be able to smoke their marijuana in public? The 2012 initiative said no, but didn’t do a very good job of defining “in public.” The Liquor Control Board wants more clarification through a bill that would define it much like alcohol, and also ban it in parks.

Brianna Taylor, a lobbyist for the city of Spokane Valley, said the proposed definition should go farther and outlaw lounges where marijuana users might gather to consume their pot. The Valley has such a place, she said, and if the state won’t ban them outright, it should give cities and counties the authority to do it within their borders, she said.

Bad idea for a legal substance that is giving the state tax revenue, said Arthur West, an Olympia resident and government watchdog. “Where are people going to be smoking this weed? They should do so in the broad light of day in front of God and everybody. That’s what legalization’s about.”

Should researchers be able to study marijuana in Washington? Yes, said Jessica Tonani, of the research firm Verda Bio, because the plant has a genome that is roughly 10 times more diverse than the human genome and can have 85 different cannabinoids in a wide variety of concentrations.

“It’s silly to call marijuana medicine when you don’t really know what’s in it,” Committee Chairman Chris Hurst, D-Enumclaw, said.

But it’s impossible to do research right now because of all the different strains of marijuana now being grown, Tonani said.

The committee is considering a Senate-approved bill that would add a marijuana research license to the current licenses that cover growing, processing and selling the drug, with research applications reviewed by the state’s Life Sciences Discovery Fund Authority.

Later in the day, the House Appropriations Committee held hearings on a comprehensive bill that looked at many of those questions as well as ways of combining the state’s recreational and medical marijuana systems, rearranging the tax structure and providing some of the money the state collects to cities and counties that allow marijuana businesses.

All of the bills are expected to get committee votes in the coming weeks.

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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