Marijuana possession officially becomes legal in Washington next Thursday, Dec. 6th, but state-run marijuana shops aren’t expected to open for at least another year. As lawmakers consider the future of the state’s marijuana program, they are looking to influential members of the cannabis community for guidance.
Washington is being forced to break new ground with their legal marijuana program. The only governing body that is somewhat comparable to what Washington hopes to instate to regulate marijuana is the Liquor Control Board, and they have said they have little insight into the basics of growing, processing, and selling marijuana.
State officials are soliciting bids from marijuana experts around the county and they are also receiving a great deal of unsolicited advice from advocates who believe they know how the program should run.
Although officials have not heard final word from the federal government about whether they intend to shut the marijuana program down, they know that they must start planning and moving forward to get their system off the ground.
Alison Holcomb, Washington ACLU drug policy director, was influential in orchestrating support for I-502. Now that the initiative has passed, she is hoping to work toward upholding its original intent. She said that the intent of the measure was to make marijuana shops very similar to Washington’s state-run liquor stores, with minimal signage or embellishment.
Holcomb has also explained that she does not foresee state employees running the marijuana shops, due to the risk of federal prosecution.
The next year is an odd gray area for Washington marijuana smokers. Possession will become legal, but buying and selling it will not be legal until marijuana shops are in place, depending on how strictly you read the law. Some lawmakers are arguing that the only legal marijuana will be marijuana purchased from state-run stores, while others argue that is impossible to regulate.
It is anticipated that if the system is developed well, legal marijuana could bring $2 billion to the state in the next 5 years.