This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.
Forget the Legislature. The real action this year is at the Liquor Control Board.
Under Initiative 502, the board is charged with making an item of two things that normally mix like oil and water – marijuana and regulation.
The new law is, well, a law. It legalizes pot but also tells stoners what they can and can’t do. Stoners tend not to be obsessed with legalities.
The oil and water have yet to mix. The latest example is two South Sound bars – Stonegate in Tacoma and Frankie’s Sports Bar and Grill in Olympia – whose owners have reportedly decided that I-502 gave them permission to add marijuana to their regular alcoholic libations.
At Stonegate, you can knock back a few drinks, then go upstairs to sit around and inhale. At a “medical marijuana” dispensary, no less; this may be a new low even for that tawdry racket.
The Liquor Control Board – and the governor, for that matter – is not amused. The board apparently has to write some new rules, though, before it can threaten to pull the license of these one-stop-shopping joints.
The operators found a crack in the board’s otherwise tight regulations on bars.
Drinking establishments are required to forbid criminal behavior on their premises. But under I-502, illegal consumption of marijuana is a civil infraction, not a crime. So the board has to close that gap.
One reason it is alarmed is the nasty synergy of marijuana and alcohol. You can partake a modest amount of alcohol without necessarily driving northbound in the southbound lane of the freeway. The same goes for marijuana.
But the two together are a different story. One research survey on the National Institutes of Health website puts it this way:
“The risk from driving under the influence of both alcohol and cannabis is greater than the risk of driving under the influence of either alone.”
That’s an exceptionally good reason not to have people driving to and from a place where you can get drunk and stoned at the same time.
Getting back to legalities, the fact that these bars weren’t shut down immediately is a testament to official tolerance of just about every kind of dope transaction forbidden under Initiative 502 and state law.
Money changing hands when cannabis is delivered: illegal. Cannabis consumed in public place: illegal. Unlicensed source of cannabis: illegal. Cannabis consumption authorized on laughable medical pretexts: illegal.
So many laws to break, so little time.