Lawmakers encourage marijuana slowdown

jordan.schrader@thenewstribune.comJanuary 12, 2013 

Three House committee chairmen are asking the state Liquor Control Board to hit the brakes on a system for licensing and taxing marijuana, citing strapped budgets and the possibility that the federal government could try to shut the whole system down.

Reps. Reuven Carlyle of Seattle, Ross Hunter of Medina and Chris Hurst of Enumclaw, all Democrats, wrote to the liquor board this week criticizing what they see as an aggressive timeline for implementing marijuana legalization.

Voters in November made it legal under state law to have small amounts of marijuana and approved a system for licensing and taxing the growing and selling of pot.

Now the state Liquor Control Board is moving toward writing the rules for producers, processors and sellers, and considering hiring more staff and a consultant.

Hurst, who is chairman of the House committee with oversight of many issues — including the marijuana market — said in an interview he is confident the Legislature will make changes to the initiative this year, even though it will require two-thirds super-majorities in the House and the Senate.

Among his goals: to raise the cost of a license higher than the $1,000 set by the initiative and to divert some of the proceeds of marijuana taxes and fees to education.

The money is mostly slated to go to health care programs under current law. The incoming governor, Jay Inslee, also said he wouldn’t rule out diverting some to schools.

Maybe licenses should be sold on “the open market,” Hurst said, arguing that higher prices would encourage the licenses to go to legitimate businesses.

“We wouldn’t hand the liquor business for next to nothing to Al Capone,” he said, “so why should we hand the marijuana business to … his modern-day equivalent?”

The liquor board said it is meeting with Hurst but moving forward. It plans to go out to bid Tuesday on a consultant, then hold six forums around the state over the following month to gather public input.

Jordan Schrader: 360-786-1826 @Jordan_Schrader

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