Washington State’s road to legal marijuana strewn with potholes

It’s been nine months since the first outlets opened in Washington State, but as store owners and producers are finding, they’re not achieving much of a retail high. As Gary Mason reports, taxes and competition are giving rise to a robust black market.

Amber McGowan surveys the clutch of customers milling around the three counters in her tiny marijuana retail outlet and nods approvingly – pot is hot.

Men and women who appear to be mostly over 50 consider products with names such as Headband, Skunk, Banana Kush and THC Bomb. A five-pack of oatmeal cookies that are nothing like the ones your mother used to make go for $42 (U.S.). Behind a glass enclosure there are bongs of every colour and description. Psychedelic renderings grace the store’s wood-panelled walls.

“I have to say business has been fantastic,” says Ms. McGowan, manager of Cannabis City, the first marijuana store to open in Seattle. “But unfortunately that’s not the whole story.”

Not even close.

  • tom_billesley

    A lot of kids want the thrill of doing something illegal, so they’ll shun marijuana in favour of something else. Perhaps it’s safer for the kids to keep it illegal and lightly policed.

    • Stronger than Dirt

      I dare say that anyone under the underdeveloped brain age of 25 , really shouldn’t smoke today’s pot, it’s too strong and … as you mentioned, psychosis is a real possibility. The other issue I have is that pot smokers that are living in proximity to other people , i.e. apartment buildings / shared house, frequently have zero regard for the health of other tenants or their pets or the stench embeded in clothes, furniture , etc. – And refuse to use vaporizers ….
      I’ve commented on pot articles online and needless to say, wasn’t well received.

      • mobuyus

        Yesterday’s pot could be pretty powerful, the idea that the pot today is stronger is a fiction cooked up by anti-pot types fighting a rear guard action. Psychosis will only be experienced by the psychotic. Pot will not induce psychosis in non-psychotics. The only psychosis is on the part of the rabid anti-pot types, who really should lighten up or just light one up.

        • Minicapt

          One should never doubt the message from the Flying Spaghetti Monster and His Pastafarian faithful.


        • Stronger than Dirt

          Why can’t chronics use vapourizers ?

          • mobuyus

            Dear Stronger than Dirt have you never fired up a kipper?

          • Stronger than Dirt

            Since the 70’s I have been known to partake, when offered. That’s only 45 years but hey, what do I know about thc.

          • mobuyus

            I respect your knowledge on these things and having partaken myself for 45 years, I can say I have no scientific knowledge on the subject of thc. I do know however that most of the hybrids being smoked today are a derivative of Mexican and Vietnamese strains. A lot of people smoked a lot of garbage homegrown and garbage Mexican. These people smoke a modern Kush and proclaim it to be more powerful than old 60″s grass. When law-enforcement started noticing crystallization on the weed they at first attributed it to dealers spraying their product with chemicals to hook children! Now they say the weed is 400 times stronger than the old stuff. I do not trust people with no actual knowledge having any input into legislating laws pertaining to this matter. I do not however advocate the abuse of any substance. An expanded mind never goes back to it’s former shape.

          • Stronger than Dirt

            Perhaps some further research is in order … Come to think of it, as you mentioned, Wowi Maui back in the 70’s produced a rather euphoric sensation of being followed … in the middle of nowhere , on a dirt road, in the dark and the way to a late night swim … Not since duplicated … synapses or the lack thereof may have a lot to do with that, imo.

          • mobuyus

            I’m going to do more experimenting in my lab.

  • Hard Little Machine

    Liquor taxes, particularly those in Washington have ALWAYS been extraordinarily high. Legal weed was in part, an attempt to circumvent the consumer costs of that. But unlike weed, liquor is taxed by its alcohol content. If Washington figures out a way to tax weed by THC content then probably consumers can make an informed decision.

  • Clink9

    It should be a boost in Doritos sales.

  • The Washington state system has not been a failure. There has been virtually no criminal activity associated with the marijuana industry. The state simply has not fine-tuned the system as of yet.

    Washington state is overwhelmingly democratic, and a big believer in more government. After the election, the Liquor Control Board (LCB), which was tasked with regulating the industry, overdosed on way too much regulation and taxes.

    The net effect was to make “legal” pot more expensive than “black market” pot. To make matters worse, the LCB burdensome regulations have only allowed a few stores to open.

    The end result; A percentage of pot smokers have continued to purchase from the black market because of pricing and availability.

    The LCB is aware they have caused the problem. There are significant political discussions going on over a more streamlined regulation and taxing system.

    Even though the “recreational pot industry” roll out has not been smooth, the tax revenues have reached high numbers. And the there is already political fighting over who gets to spent the money and how get more.

    The Washington state system is a good example of too much government regulation. But given time, the legislature and the LCB, will find the sweet taxing strategy that reduces the “black market”, and maximizes the “regulated market”, tax revenue stream.

    However rocky the “legal” marijuana roll out has been, it is better than the previous “illegal” system. The old system had regular and numerous acts of violence, the new system has had none.

    And throwing people into jail for marijuana use is asinine. For over 40 years it simply has not worked. How long do you continue with a failed system?

    • Minicapt

      The Congressional Black Caucus began in Jan 1969 as a Democrat Select Committee.
      The New Democratic Party has been in operation since Aug 1961.