Inside Opinion

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Tag: liquor control board

April
8th

Toking and tippling make for a deadly cocktail

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

Read more »

March
20th

Save marijuana licenses for those who play by the rules

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

The Legislature doesn’t normally amend an initiative within two years of its passage. But the state doesn’t have that kind of time as it makes the rules for the soon-to-arrive legal marijuana industry.

The Liquor Control Board – which will regulate legal pot – has to get it right the first time. That’s why lawmakers should deliver the required two-thirds majority to make necessary tweaks to Initiative 502.

State Rep. Christopher Hurst, D-Enumclaw, has proposed an important amendment to the initiative. It would allow the board to charge fair-market rates for the growing, wholesaling and retailing licenses it will distribute.
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Feb.
24th

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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Feb.
21st

Third Tacoma AIA seems like anti-inebriation overkill

NWS0220_TACCOUNCIL_pThis editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

Tacoma’s two Alcohol Impact Areas – where merchants are prohibited from selling certain cheap, high-octane beverages – have had success in decreasing public drunkenness within their boundaries.

But the success is only partial if they’re just pushing that problem into other parts of the city.

That’s apparently what’s happened since formation of the Urban Core District in 2001 and the Lincoln District in 2008. Many of the chronic inebriates who can no longer buy their mind-numbing rotgut head north or west into neighborhoods that aren’t in either AIA. Alcohol-related police calls have risen there as have emergency medical calls – which often are for people who have passed out drunk.

The problem has residents in the North End and the West End now seeking approval for their own AIA.

Tough luck, South Tacoma and University Place. If the Tacoma City Council gives the go-ahead for its third and geographically largest AIA, and the state Liquor Control Board agrees to it, your neighborhoods will be next in line for the overflow – and the problems that go along with that, including increased panhandling, homeless camping and public intoxication. Read more »

Jan.
22nd

Legal pot in Washington: What it should look like

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Here’s a gig. The state Liquor Control Board is looking for consultants who can tell it “how marijuana is grown, cultivated, harvested, cured and processed.”

Also, “How marijuana is infused into food and beverages. How marijuana should be packaged, labeled, transported and sold at a retail level.”
There are plenty of experts out there, no doubt. The question is, do they have to pass a background check?

This sums up the fix the liquor board is in as it tries to turn legal marijuana into reality.

Initiative 502 ordered the board to create a full-blown, highly regulated industry – “from seed to sale,” as the agency describes it. It has to make the rules for everything from licensed grow operations to processing centers to retail pot stores.

The problem is, nothing of the sort has ever been done. Anywhere. In the world. No one knows what it looks like.

As the liquor board proceeds to do the unprecedented, some principles ought to be followed.

For starters, the industry should be given no freebies. This is one case in which an initiative needs immediate tinkering by the requisite two-thirds majority of the Legislature.

The measure lets would-be growers and retailers into the game for a piddling $1,000 license fee. But legal marijuana could turn into a $1 billion-a-year industry. If it does, these would be licenses to print money.

If Washington must have legal marijuana, it should charge applicants what the market will bear. An auction, for example, could produce a bonanza of fees for the state – money that could help fund the looming struggle to keep cheaper and more abundant marijuana away from schoolchildren.
Read more »

May
7th

Stick with I-1183’s voter-approved liquor fees

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

Retailers who hope to make money by selling alcohol to Washington residents once the state gets out of liquor sales June 1 now are trying to change the rules of the game that led to privatization.

Initiative 1183, which was approved in November, succeeded where similar privatization efforts failed because of the way it was sold to voters. It reassured them – complete with fatherly testimonials by police and firefighters –  that local public safety would be held harmless if I-1183 passed.

In fact, due to extra fees liquor retailers would pay under provisions of I-1183, local governments would get millions of dollars more than they were getting under state control of liquor. That extra money would help pay the cost of enforcing the effects of liquor sales at so many new outlets across the state. Read more »