News / USA

Washington State Gears Up for Marijuana Industry

Washington State Gears Up for Marijuana Industryi
X
April 22, 2013 2:59 PM
Washington is one of the two U.S. states where voters last year legalized the recreational use of small amounts of marijuana, even though the drug remains illegal under federal law. The other state is Colorado, and both are drafting regulations to govern cultivation and sale of the drug. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan visited Seattle in the northwest state of Washington, where officials expect a multi-million dollar marijuana industry to be in place later this year.
Mike O'Sullivan
Washington is one of the two U.S. states where voters last year legalized the recreational use of small amounts of marijuana, even though the drug remains illegal under federal law. The other state is Colorado, and both are drafting regulations to govern cultivation and sale of the drug. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan visited Seattle in the northwest state of Washington, where officials expect a multi-million-dollar marijuana industry to be in place later this year.

Medical marijuana already was legal in Washington and 17 other states. At a Seattle dispensary called The Joint, a steady stream of patients comes and buys marijuana in its many forms, including marijuana-laced cookies and cannabis-infused soda. Founder Shy Sadis hopes to expand to sell recreational marijuana.

“All around Washington, and eventually some day, possibly in Oregon, California, Colorado, wherever cannabis is legal,” he said.

Medical marijuana requires a doctor's recommendation, and dispensaries are set up as non-profit cooperatives. A different framework is being created for recreational marijuana, said Washington State legislator Roger Goodman.  

“We have to have regulations that put in place means to produce cannabis, to process it and to sell it, that's economical enough to be sold at a price that's lower than the black market, and yet a price that is high enough to deter youth consumption,” said Goodman.

Under the new Washington state law, adults can possess about 28 grams of the drug. There is still no legal way to buy marijuana, however, except for medical use, until a production and distribution system is put in place in December.

Recreational marijuana will be controlled by the state liquor control board, and state officials are busy learning about cannabis and its effects on users. They face a steep learning curve. They have decades of experience with alcohol, but little with marijuana.

Recreational marijuana will be heavily taxed and the industry could be huge. State and local officials hope to gain hundreds of million dollars in needed income.  

They also hope to save money from not having to prosecute and jail marijuana users. Seattle city attorney Pete Holmes said marijuana laws have been applied disproportionately to racial minorities, as he saw upon taking office in 2010.

“That was an eye-opening experience for me, because of all the pending cases. Fifty-nine to 60 percent were against African Americans in a city with a seven percent African-American population, and a progressive city, I would add,” said Holmes.

Marijuana will be heavily regulated under the new law, and dispensaries will be barred from locations near schools and public parks.

Psychologist Steve Freng works for a joint federal-local law enforcement program called the Northwest High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, and said many questions about the new Washington State law remain unanswered.

“How demand may increase, how consumption and purchasing may increase, how it is going to impact folks under 21 years old, in much the manner that we are dealing with underage drinking right now,” he said.

Freng said at least 10 percent of users could become dependent on the drug. Supporters concede marijuana is a psychotropic substance that can alter perceptions and behavior. They say it is not for everyone, but insist that it is safer than alcohol or aspirin.

A medical marijuana user, 68-year-old James Higgins, thinks legalization is a good thing.

“They will put no more people in jail for an ounce of weed [marijuana] or a couple of joints [marijuana cigarettes]. I think it is a good deal that it is legalized. It is going to help the economy and the people,” he said.

Activist Greta Carter said these are exciting times in Washington State. “But also a very heavy responsibility that we do it right, do it conservatively.”

No one knows how federal law enforcement will react to the new state laws in Colorado and Washington. The U.S. Department of Justice has promised a statement soon, and Seattle city attorney Pete Holmes hopes they will wait and see how these social experiments develop.

You May Like

Sydney Hostage-taker Failed to Manipulate Social Media

Gunman forced captives to use personal Facebook, YouTube accounts to issue his demands; online community helped flag messages, urged others not to share them More

UN Seeks $8.4 Billion to Help War-Hit Syrians

Effort aimed at helping Syrians displaced within their own country and those who've fled to neighboring ones More

Who Are the Pakistani Taliban?

It's an umbrella group of militant organizations whose objective is enforcement of Sharia in Pakistan 'whether through peace or war' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Yearsi
X
December 18, 2014 5:13 PM
Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Years

Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid