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Washington State and the Road to Legalized Pot


 Marijuana: It's Legal to Possess in Washington, but It's Not Legal to Buy or Sell It.

Governor Jay Inslee (D) and Attorney General Bob Ferguson are in Washington D.C. today, meeting with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to discuss Washington State's legalization of recreational marijuana. During his campaign, Governor Inslee opposed Initiative 502 but said "he would respect and defend the will of the voters" if it passed.

Inslee's communications director, David Postman, has said that the governor "asked for the meeting to discuss implementation of the marijuana law… ." It is hoped this will start "an ongoing discussion with the federal government about implementing what Washington voted for in November." 56% of Washingtonians voted in favor of Initiative 502, which legalizes the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for folks 21 and older.

Initiative 502, like Colorado's Amendment 64, legalizes the possession of marijuana for recreational use rather than medical use.

The issue is complicated by the fact that marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Furthermore, until the Washington Liquor Control establishes regulations around growing and selling recreational marijuana, it legal to possess a drug that it is not legal to grow, sell, or buy.

Rick Garza of the Washington Liquor Control Board says the agency recognizes the need for strict regulations. "The feds are going to tighten the rope if they feel like it's not strictly regulated. The more tightly regulated it is, they are likely to give us a little more room." As of yet, the Justice Department has not said whether or not it will try to block the legalization of pot in Washington State and Colorado. (Seattle Times).

Regulation is supported by proponents of legalized pot. Says Alison Holcomb, the ACLU's drug policy director and a supporter of Initiative 502, "We want to be held accountable. We want this to be watched to see if it's a workable alternative to marijuana prohibition."

The Washington State Liquor Control Board is working towards implementing Initiative 502, a process that involves "building the system from seed to sale… ." The agency is holding six public forums between January 22 and February 21, 2013, to discuss the implementation, and it posts a timeline with updates on the situation. Also available through the WSLCB is the fiscal impact of I-502. The legalization of recreational marijuana is expected to generate approximately $4,295,000 in "known state revenue" through 2017. "[K]nown state agency costs are estimated to be $2,754,000 over five fiscal years."

President Obama is not making the legalization of recreational marijuana in Washington and Colorado a top priority. In December, He told ABC's Barbara Walters, "We've got bigger fish to fry."

Learn about Washington's plans to tax recreational marijuana here.

photo credit: smokershighlife via photopin cc

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Gail Cole
Avalara Author
Gail Cole
Gail Cole
Avalara Author Gail Cole
Gail began researching and writing about sales tax in 2012 and has been fascinated with it ever since. She has a penchant for uncovering unusual tax facts, and endeavors to make complex sales tax laws more digestible for both experts and laypeople.