Bureaucracy holds up legal marijuana sales

February 21st, 2014 by Ken

(Editors note:   The following article appeared in the February 2014 edition of my printed newsletter.)

In November 2012, voters in both Washington and Colorado approved the legalization of marijuana for personal use.

Two months ago, Colorado began selling the product to residents of that state.

Washington is still arguing over rules and regulations regarding its use and distribution.

Why the difference?  Why are Colorado residents now legally buying and using pot while residents of Washington are still trying to work out the rules?

The difference is striking and revolves around two points.

Colorado already had rules in place regulating the use of medical marijuana, although it was estimated that nearly 96 percent of all medical marijuana sold in Colorado was not a medical necessity.

Washington never created a significant licensing and distribution system for medical marijuana and opted to let medical shops operate in a twilight zone.

Washington put the development and regulation of the new marijuana laws under the State Liquor Control Board, an agency headed by political appointees with a reputation of bureaucracy and inaction.

In addition, Colorado opted to create a vertical system whereby those selling pot were allowed to grow and process it, similar to the one they had in place for medical marijuana.

Washington opted for a horizontal system whereby those who grow it and those who produce it are not connected to those who sell it.

The result is a more bureaucratic system which creates more rules and regulations with each step of the process.

Those growing marijuana in Washington (if they can get a license) are taxed at 25 percent.  Those processing the plants are taxed at 25 percent.   Those selling the finished product are taxed at 25 percent.   In addition, sales tax of nearly 10 percent is collected at each step.

The concern is that the high cost of the legal product will continue to drive users to the black market.

Washington placed creation of new rules and regulations in the lap of the Washington State Liquor Control Board which had just seen most of its money and staffing fall by the wayside when voters took them out of the liquor distribution business.

The agency saw a chance to rebuild itself by creating extensive rules and regulations for this new legal product.   It also opted to bring medical marijuana under its control thus expanding its reach and power.

By doing so, the agency could, once again, become a major player in the society of our state.

Meanwhile, residents are still waiting for the first legal products to arrive at the outlets nearly a year and a half after voters gave their approval, and months after the State of Colorado began collecting tax on its new legal product.

Posted in Business, Government, Informational, Local Politics

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