Inside Opinion

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Tag: legalization


Despite I-502, illegal pot threatens to undercut legal

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

“Legalize it and tax it,” went the mantra of marijuana advocates trying to mainstream the drug. Washingtonians got the legalization part when they passed Initiative 502; they may not see much of the tax part.

The Liquor Control Board’s new pot consultant, Mark Kleiman, has thrown icy water on giddy projections that the state might collect hundreds of billions of dollars from taxes on legal sales of marijuana.

That’s not likely, Kleiman said, for several reasons. Chief among them is the criminal black market in pot that will continue to lurk in

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So how do sales to minors stop under I-502?

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

One goal should be paramount as the state Liquor Control Board tries to build a legal marijuana industry from scratch: Keeping the drug away from adolescents.

The people behind Initiative 502 promised – we believe in good faith – that the ballot measure would help discourage teenagers from getting into pot. We were skeptical and remain so, though we’d love to be proven wrong.

No responsible person thinks it’s a good idea for 15-year-olds to consume cannabis. For many adults, the drug is a take-it-or-leave-it diversion. It’s another story for kids with developing brains: Marijuana can knock them out of school, turn them into daily users and derail their lives.

I-502 has already removed one of the chief deterrents to marijuana use: the stigma of illegality. Teenagers pick up on signals from adults. This signal says, “Pot? No big deal.”

The initiative proposed to counter this by making the existing black market go away. Thousands of traffickers and grow operations would be replaced by a tightly controlled system of licensed farmers and retail stores. The rules would be written and enforced by the state Liquor Control Board.

The board has been gathering testimony on what the system should look like. At hearings around the state, it has been deluged by – surprise! – big crowds of traffickers and growers who want in on the deal. They want lots of people – namely, themselves – to get the lucrative farming and retailing licenses the board will be passing out some months from now.

A lot of licensees is bad – very bad – if sales to minors are in fact an overriding concern.

Will it be easier for the Liquor Control Board to police 200 retailers or 2,000? The question answers itself. The board cannot direct the flow of marijuana if it waves a magic wand over the existing black market and calls it legal.
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Public tokers to feds: Please bust Washington

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

True to form, some weed heads hailed the arrival of legal marijuana Thursday by breaking the law that legalized it.

Initiative 502, which took effect Thursday, allows legal possession of up to an ounce of cannabis but forbids smoking it (or otherwise displaying) it in public. That didn’t slow down the crowds of jubilant tokers who jointly lit up in front of cameras in a public park – Seattle Center – the moment I-502 kicked in at midnight.

No surprise: Dope-smokers are not renowned for respecting drug laws.

Nor are the Seattle’s City Council and its city attorney, Pete Holmes, whose attitudes reflect a marijuana-friendly city. Taking their cues from the top, the Seattle Police Department has announced it has no plans to issue the citations for the open-air consumption that is explicitly forbidden under I-502.

Seattle may be OK with public pot parties, but blowing smoke at the TV cameras does no favors to I-502 statewide.
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Juvenile marijuana use: The fatal flaw of Initiative 502

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

Initiative 502 has the virtue of acknowledging a reality: The state is already rife with marijuana, and criminalizing it hasn’t made it go away.

Give its authors credit for honesty. Unlike the charades and subterfuges of “medical cannabis,” I-502 is a straightforward attempt to get pot out of the black market and into state-licensed retail stores.

Give them credit, too, for a good faith effort to keep the drug within bounds. The measure contains serious restrictions on would-be sellers, store locations and driving-while-stoned. Something like I-502 would be a reasonable way to deal with adult use of marijuana ­– though this is ultimately a federal and not a state issue.

But adult use is not the chief issue with marijuana. People who get past high school before they try it are unlikely to become compulsive users. For juveniles, the odds are much worse.

Any psychoactive drug – including alcohol – tends to have a much greater long-term impact on adolescents than on adults.

It’s a matter of brain development. Kids who get in the habit of smoking dope at, say, 15 often become heavy users because their brains get wired to crave it.

Compulsive marijuana use is damaging. It can derail educations, jobs, relationships, emotional maturity – life in general.

There are other threats. Considerable research has linked adolescent marijuana use to early-onset schizophrenia. A newly released study, which followed more than 1,000 New Zealanders 38 years from youth through adulthood, found significant IQ impairment among heavy users who started smoking pot at an early age.

I-502 again deserves credit for recognizing the problem. It prohibits anyone under 21 from possessing cannabis (not that that’s been a great success so far). It would earmark marijuana taxes for research and public education designed to discourage juvenile use.

But recognizing a problem isn’t the same as solving it. Legalization would likely produce a surge of dope smoking among teenagers who now avoid it simply because it is stigmatized as illegal.

Kids notice what adults consider acceptable, and not all of them are hell-bent on rebellion. Federal data suggest that most adolescents either avoid alcohol and drugs, or only experiment with them.

Of those who’ve gotten in deep, roughly twice as many drink as smoke marijuana (or drink and smoke marijuana). Marijuana is easier to conceal, easier on the body and probably as easy to come by.
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Draw the line between legal pot and bogus medicine

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Initiative 502 has given the Legislature a big fat opening to separate medical cannabis from the legalization of recreational marijuana.

I-502 proposes to authorize and regulate the use and sale of marijuana in Washington. It’s an initiative to the Legislature, which means that lawmakers have three options: They can adopt it as is, ignore it and let it go to the ballot, or come up with an alternative measure to put on the ballot alongside it.

The issue belongs to the voters, though legislators may well be able to improve on the initiative as written.

With the legalization option out in the open – and cleanly contained in its own bill – lawmakers ought to be able to craft a medical marijuana policy that doesn’t amount to sneaky, corrupt pseudo-legalization.

They could get two-thirds of the way there with one simple step: explicitly outlawing clinics and medical practices that do virtually nothing but hand out so-called green cards to almost anyone who walks in the door.

The proliferation of pot docs and retailers in this state over the last few years has made a mockery of the 1998 initiative that carefully authorized the therapeutic use of marijuana for the genuinely ill within a doctor-patient relationship.

The law forbade sales of the drug and restricted its use to suffering patients who couldn’t be helped by ordinary treatments.

Those restrictions remain in force but are routinely flouted. Potheads and partiers claiming “intractable pain” can easily find practitioners who will legalize their habits for $100 or $200 – often promising them the money back if they don’t get authorization papers. In Tacoma, the situation is such a sham that police say they’re running into gang members who’ve been “medically” authorized to smoke dope.
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