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Monday, June 5, 2023
June 5, 2023

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Camden: State wants to give pot a boost


When Washington voters legalized recreational marijuana a little more than 10 years ago, people of a certain age wondered about the switch from the realm of “Dazed and Confused” to the brave new world of state-sponsored and state-regulated pot.

Probably no one could have imagined how far government intervention might come as we start our second decade.

In the Legislature this session, we see some of the standard proposals, such as whether people should be able to “grow their own” at home, and if so, how much and with what restrictions. Are six plants enough? Do they have to be out of public view? Is the home too close to a school or being used as a day care?

These soon may be debated on the same floors where previous legislatures debated how much punishment to give people engaged in that activity.

Also under consideration is whether to change Initiative 502’s clear direction that people who hold a Washington license to grow, process or sell marijuana must be, like, you know, Washington residents.

The original law also limited the number of plants they could grow or the number of storefronts they could own. Voters were sold a vision of keeping the drug cartels – and perhaps the even more nefarious Big Tobacco – out of the state’s fledgling marijuana industry by having the equivalent of mom-and-pop growers selling to mom-and-pop pot shops.

Lawmakers also are considering whether to set up a Cannabis Commission under the Washington State Department of Agriculture, similar to state commissions on apples, wheat, hops or wine. A baker’s dozen of licensed marijuana growers would work with the department to help boost the industry with research and “advance knowledge and production” of the plant.

A dozen years ago, people engaged in growing marijuana would be put in prison in an effort to make them stop. Now, the state wants to put them on a commission in an effort to make them grow more and better marijuana. There may be nothing that says “mainstream” more.

Finding someone selling marijuana – once primarily relegated to knowing a guy who knows a guy who has a source, or finding a likely spot and hinting about one’s interest to a stranger one hoped was not an undercover cop – continues to be a bone of contention between state and local officials.

Another bill is designed to regulate the labeling of marijuana products, particularly those with high levels of the most active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as THC. Such rules are no doubt welcome for the discerning consumer, but must come as a shock to those who originally bought their products with no more than the assurance that it was “really good stuff, man.”

One proposal seems to make marijuana usage so mainstream it might shock even Cheech and Chong. The full House has been sent a bill that would allow people with so-called short-term rentals to offer their adult guests a free prerolled marijuana cigarette.

The bill is designed to keep parity with a proposal to allow such establishments to offer guests a complimentary bottle of wine.

Before passing that bill along, the House Committee on Regulated Substance and Gaming – which might be considered the committee on stuff people do that’s arguably bad for them – tweaked it to expand the allowable freebie to include a THC-infused edible or beverage, under the theory that some places might want to stay “smoke-free.”

Bailey Hirschberg, of Washington’s National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, told the committee that other states are more hospitable places for marijuana tourism.

“We’re losing out on a huge amount of tourism and economic engagement,” said Hirschberg, who suggested the state should require renters to provide guests with information on where one can and cannot consume recreational marijuana.

“We don’t want to put a joint in their hands and have them think they can go out on the streets or in our parks,” he said.