On State and Local Marijuana Regulation

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MarijuanaEarlier this week City Attorney Holmes released a very helpful summary of the current status of marijuana regulations in Washington State. He also includes his recommendations for a single, integrated regulatory framework at the State level that provides access to products for medical patients and recreational users. The State Legislature will have to tackle this issue (among many others) in the upcoming legislative session in Olympia.

Like our City Attorney, I support the creation of a single, state-regulated system that meets the needs of both medical patients and adult recreational users. I do not believe that the City should get out in front and adopt any new regulations for medical marijuana ahead of action by the State Legislature. Such a step would send confusing messages to the provider and patient communities and our legislators.

Instead, we should focus our current enforcement tools—including civil forfeiture of products—on the worst illegitimate actors in today’s market. I appreciate the Mayor’s announcement last month to step up the City’s enforcement efforts on recreational delivery operations and dispensaries operating without a business license.

The longer the City delays in enforcing current laws related to commercial production and distribution of marijuana the greater the risk that (1) the I-502 framework will be undercut and, frankly, ruined; (2) criminal enterprises will become entrenched and more difficult to dislodge; and (3) public support of the policy objectives of I-502 will wane.