Marijuana Legalization Lessons From Washington’s Shaky Start – Forbes

Alison Holcomb at the grand opening of Seattle's Cannabis City in July (Image: Cannabis City)

Next week voters in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, D.C., will decide whether to legalize marijuana. If they look for guidance to the two states that took that step in 2012, they will see a situation in Colorado that falls far short of the cannabis catastrophe predicted by prohibitionists. The legal industry is thriving, although it has not entirely displaced the black market yet, and marijuana-related problems are minimal so far, although controversy swirls around issues such as regulation of edibles and restrictions on consumption. If voters contemplating legalization turn their attention to Washington, which has been plagued by regulatory delays and uncertainty, there are lessons to be learned there too, but they mostly concern what not to do.

John Urquhart is the sheriff of King County, which includes Seattle. As a candidate for sheriff in 2012, he endorsed I-502, the initiative that legalized marijuana for recreational use in Washington. During a conference on marijuana regulation in Irvine, California, last week, Urquhart alternated between praising his state’s approach and conceding that implementation has been more than a little bumpy. His overall message: Things are great, and it will all work out in the end.

Alison Holcomb at the grand opening of Seattle’s Cannabis City in July (Image: Cannabis City)

For insight into the reasons for this ambivalence, consider the letters that the city of Seattle sent to more than 300 medical marijuana businesses last week. The city warned the growers, processors, and dispensaries that they cannot continue to operate unless they have state licenses by next July. The main obstacle to complying with that expectation is that Washington does not license medical marijuana businesses, even though they have been around a lot longer than the recreational shops that began opening last July. The state …read more

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