Woo-hoo! Weed is totally legal in Washington, right?! Wrong.
Washingtonian’s did not approve carte blanche pot legalization when they passed Initiative 502 in 2012. Rather, they ended failed cannabis prohibition in favor of an unprecedented cannabis regulation system that’s still in the works. Here’s the ten most important things to know about Washington’s new legal marijuana rules.
When do stores open?
Some time in 2014. The Washington Dept. of Revenue, and the State Liquor Control Board has to license all would-be growers, processors and sellers, and started accepting applications for licenses Nov. 18. The LCB is accepting applications through Thursday, Dec. 19. It could be months after that before stores get local approvals and open.
What if I’m visiting Washington before they open?
You’re going to have to illegally transport pot into the state, or find some when you get there. From what we hear, that’s not very hard.
Where are the stores going to be?
It’s not clear yet. The LCB is still in the process of licensing the first stores, which also have to get local approval. You can bet they’ll be some in Seattle, WA and very few in conservative, rural Eastern Washington. The Liquor board says it will grant up to 334 retail licenses statewide, with limits in each county. “So far it has received applications for 158 retail licenses, and no applications in 14 counties,” reports state.
Who can go to the weed stores?
All adults over 21, either Washington state residents or tourists. Tourists cannot legally take weed home.
How much can I buy?
Any combination of one ounce of pot, or sixteen ounces of pot brownies (“marijuana-infused product in solid form”), or 72 ounces of pot soda (“marijuana-infused product in liquid form”), is legal in the state for adults over 21 to possess as of Nov. 2012.
How much will legal weed cost in Washington?
Prices are going to be insane compared to the black market. I-502 calls for 25 percent taxes at each step in the supply chain. That’s 25 percent from grower to wholesaler (so a $2,000 pound becomes a $2,500 pound), then 25 percent again from wholesaler to retailer (so, say a marked-up, wholesale $4,000 ounce becomes $5,0000 with taxes), and 25 percent tax again from retailer to customer. So, assuming a 50 percent retail markup, a $7,500 pound broken into 16 ounces equals $468.75 per ounce, plus 25 percent tax. That’s a $585 ounce, or a $73 eighth-ounce. By comparison - eighth-ounces can go for $25 at Bay Area dispensaries.
Can I Act The Fool?
Nope. No open containers or public consumption of weed is allowed. “Initiative 502 states that it is unlawful to open/consume a package of marijuana or marijuana infused product in view of the general public.”
Home-growing Is Also Banned
All recreational producers have to be licensed, so must be processors, retailers, and no one licensed can be under 21. It’s illegal to grown your own for recreational purposes in Washington, though the law is widely ignored, and it appears that medical cannabis patients in the state may retain a limited right to do so.
No Driving High
I-502 makes driving with 5 nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood an automatic DUI. If you smoke, you will be over that limit for at least a couple hours, maybe longer. Don’t drive high. Cops will pull you over for bad driving and take THC DUI suspects to the station for a blood draw. For drivers under 21 — Washington state has ZERO TOLERANCE for you driving high. Any amount of THC in your system and you’re busted.
No Workplace Immunity
I-502 lets employers and private property owners call the shots on their turf. Employees can be fired for showing up high, or even smoking in their off-hours. Private landowners don’t have to tolerate pot use on their property. Play it cool, employees.