Making it Legal - Washington State’s New Pot Laws Finally Finalized

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Finally, after almost one year of planning, debate, and hearings, Washington State adopted new regulations related to the growth, sales, and regulation of marijuana. Residents of Washington at last have the information they need to engage legally in the recreational use of pot, as approved by the majority of Washington voters through Initiative 502, passed in 2012.

According to the Washington State Liquor Control Board, which is charged with regulating the legal marijuana industry, the new regulations determine how marijuana is produced, distributed, and taxed, and will remove any criminal and civil penalties resulting from Washington State law. The new regulations are similar to existing ones related to the production and sale of alcohol.

Federal law, which prohibits the production, sale, and use of marijuana, remain in effect.

Highlights of the new rules, which become effective on November 16, 2013, include:

  • People wishing to obtain a license to produce and sell marijuana must be a Washington State resident, must complete a criminal background check and fingerprinting, must pay fees and taxes, must carry commercial liability insurance, and must adhere to regulations regarding the amount of marijuana produced.
  • Public safety measures including a tracing system to track product from production to sale, $1000 fine for sale to a minor, child-resistant packaging for marijuana products, strict transportation and record-keeping requirements, and limits on the number of retail stores.
  • Consumer safety measures that include retail storage, packaging, and labeling requirements, serving size restrictions, limits on the size of transactions, and lab testing requirements.

While we support laws that are passed by Washington State citizens, we are concerned that the new legalization of recreational marijuana may exacerbate the problem with drunk and drugged driving, since marijuana can interact with alcohol and with prescription medications to create a driver who is impaired.

We strongly encourage drivers to avoid getting behind the wheel until the effects of marijuana has worn off. According to the new law, people with a THC blood content of 5 nanograms per milliliter shouldn’t get behind the wheel. Since it is impossible to know what a person’s blood content is without a blood test, we hope that anyone who has used marijuana products will avoid driving, just as with alcohol use.