Legal marijuana – implementation should be interesting

Editorial Gary MugWhile television news teams were flocking to Colorado to video long lines of people waiting to buy legal marijuana in that state, it remains to be seen how the roll out of a similar law in Washington will fair.

First of all there’s the need for supply – it appears there’s a long list of farmers that want to get into the game. Although I can’t say for sure, I think some seeking to grow marijuana in Okanogan County might already have experience in the cultivation of the plants. The county commissioners wisely chose not to add their own restrictions to marijuana production and treat their zoning like any other farm. In Colorado they let medical marijuana growers do the initial supply, while other sanctioned grow operations get geared up.

Then there’s the retail stores – location, location, location is the realtor’s motto when choosing a spot for your business. However, location is just what will make it hard for retail outlets to locate in small cities like Oroville and Tonasket. You can’t put a store within a thousand feet of a school, church, public park, playground or day care center. That doesn’t leave much room for retail. In Oroville, Police Chief Clay Warstaff figures that’s a small area on the very south end of town along Highway 97. That must be why the state funded the sidewalk out that way.

Of course the good libertarian or budget-minded might ask why do you need a grower and a seller anyway. Most people could probably grow a plant or two in their backyard (or windowbox) and cut out all those middlemen. Well, it all has to do with the way they sold Initiative 520 to the people of Washington. The state needed the tax incentive to sell it to some voters. And you can’t have any moonshiners or the state would miss out on their cut. It’s yet to be seen in Washington or Colorado what kind of problems they’ll have with the home gardeners.

Another potential problem is with those that are stopped for Driving Under the Influence – how does law enforcement tell other than the obvious signs of being intoxicated by something? There are no Breathalyzers for pot and blood testing might show use whether it was that day or a couple of weeks prior. Someone who has used legal medical marijuana could be in trouble even if they weren’t “high” while they were driving, but had used it at an earlier time. This was an issue that was brought up at a forum held in Tonasket prior to the law being approved by Washington voters. In addition to the few that seemed anti-legalization, there were basically two camps, one that wanted I-502 as it was passed and another that wanted a different law that would take these potential problems into consideration.

Keeping marijuana out of the hands of our young people will also be a problem, but probably no more so than alcohol is. Like alcohol it is up to the parents, schools and community to educate our children on the dangers involved in consumption of substances like pot and booze.

During Prohibition (with a capital P for alcohol) some states just decided it was making things worse leading to gangsterism and brought in the criminal element. Enough states just started ignoring that federal law and eventually prohibition went away. And like the alcohol Prohibition, anti-marijuana laws have led to increased criminal activity and unfortunately long prison terms for people who often were not hardened criminals – certainly not the Al Capone’s of Prohibition days. Washington and Colorado are on the forefront of the same kind of movement. It remains to be seen how many states will follow in these two states’ footprints and if this will lead to an end to marijuana prohibition nationwide, a lowering of the criminal element connected with pot, and the last we see of people being put in jail for victimless crimes at a huge cost to our communities and our pocketbooks. We certainly shouldn’t be proud of the nation with the world’s highest prison population.