Drug Policy

What Legal Pot in Washington Will Look Like


Washington's marijuana legalization initiative, which takes effect on December 6, is broadly similar to Colorado's: Both initiatives eliminate penalties for possession of up to an ounce by adults 21 or older, and both call for state-licensed pot shops, in Washington's case to be regulated by the state liquor control board, which is supposed to adopt regulations by December 2013 and start issuing licenses in 2014. But Washington's Intitiative 502 is considerably more restrictive and prescriptive than Colorado's Amendment 64. Here are some of the significant differences:

Home cultivation. Unlike Amendment 64, I-502, does not allow people to grow their own pot. Alison Holcomb, director of the Yes on I-502 campaign, says pre-drafting research indicated that voters were not receptive to home cultivation. Since "marijuana isn't quite yet out of the black market, and won't come out of the black market, even under I-502, until other states make it a legal product and the federal prohibition goes away," she says, "there is still concern among parents, families living in neighborhoods, saying 'I'm not quite ready for my next-door neighbor to start growing marijuana in their basement.'"

DUI standards. I-502 establishes a per se standard for driving under the influence of marijuana: five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. Amendment 64 does not address the issue, except to say that "driving under the influence of marijuana will remain illegal." Under current Washington law (which is similar to Colorado's), Holcomb says, an arrest requires evidence of impairment, and a conviction requires evidence of consumption, but neither is tied to a particular THC level. The more specific standard can help or hurt defendants, depending on the situation. Pro-legalization critics of I-502 worry that regular consumers, such as patients who use marijuana for symptom relief every day, may hit the five-nanogram limit even when their driving ability is not impaired. Holcomb emphasizes that blood cannot be drawn for a test without reasonable suspicion that a driver is impaired, and she argues that jurors "might be skeptical that the person was actually impaired [if] the results were not at that threshold level." But she concedes that any per se rule, whether for marijuana or alcohol, carries a risk of punishing people who do not in fact pose a public safety threat. 

Retail restrictions. While Amendment 64 leaves the details of regulating pot shops to the Colorado Department of Revenue, I-502 includes specific rules aimed at making the stores as unobtrusive and uncontroversial as possible: no consumption on the premises, no products visible from the street, no identification beyond a single plain sign of specified size, and no outdoor ads on publicly owned property (including mass transit systems) or "within one thousand feet of the perimeter of a school grounds, playground, recreation center or facility, child care center, public park, or library, or any game arcade admission to which is not restricted to persons aged twenty-one years or older." That same location restriction applies to the stores themselves. The idea, says Holcomb, is to make the privately operated pot shops resemble old-style state-run liquor stores—"very bland, very boring," and inconspicuous, so "you have to specifically seek it out to go there and buy marijuana….We don't want to treat people like criminals for making the choice to use marijuana, and at the same time we don't want to promote marijuana use."

Taxes. Amendment 64 tells the state legislature to impose an excise tax "at a rate not to exceed fifteen percent" on sales of marijuana to retailers. That cap expires on January 1, 2017. But since a 1992 amendment to Colorado's constitution requires that all tax increases be approved by voters, it is not clear whether this levy actually will be imposed. Colorado Attorney General John Suthers says Amendment 64 did not comply with the constitution's requirements for new taxes, so a second vote will be necessary before the state can collect any revenue from marijuana sales. Washington has no such requirement, and the tax imposed by I-502 is much heavier: 25 percent at each of three levels (grower to processor, processor to retailer, and retailer to customer). As a result, prices paid by consumers, taking into account wholesaler and retailer markups (which add to the taxable price), will be more than double what they would be without taxes. Then again, production costs and markups should be much lower in a legal market, even with the threat of federal prosecution. A 2010 RAND Corporation analysis of marijuana legalization in California suggested pretax retail prices might be one-tenth the black-market price, in which case even an effective tax in the range of 100 percent to 200 percent may not seem very onerous, although it will create a strong incentive for evasion.

There is at least one way in which Washington's initiative is more permissive than Colorado's: Unlike Amendment 64, it does not let local governments ban marijuana stores within their jurisdictions. In fact, it charges the Washington Liquor Control Board with ensuring "adequate access to licensed sources of useable marijuana and marijuana-infused products to discourage purchases from the illegal market." Holcomb says allowing local bans would undermine that goal. Furthermore, Washington is taking a bigger leap than Colorado, which already has state-regulated medical marijuana dispensaries, many of which may decide to get into the recreational market. Washington's medical marijuana law, by contrast, does not explicitly authorize dispensaries, although as in California they operate in more tolerant jurisdictions (such as Seattle) as patient-caregiver collectives. Another significant difference that could eventually make Washington's new law either stricter or more liberal than it is now: Unlike Amendment 64, which can be changed only by another constitutional amendment, I-502 can be amended by the state legislature. For the first two years after passage, amending an initiative requires a two-thirds majority, but after that a simple majority suffices. 

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  1. Rush is going full retard today. Claiming that the Republicans need not sacrifice their social principles (i.e. hating gayz, hating Mexicanz, luving drug warz…) to stay relevant. In fact, what they need to do is hate gayz and mexicanz and luv drug warz even more. That’s the ticket.

    RIP Republican Party.

    1. This would ensure that the national Republican Party would be every bit as relevant as California’s GOP in a few years.

      Why Republicans don’t do the obvious on immigration is beyond me: Higher fences, wider gates.

    2. So he wants 20 years of solid TEAM BLUE rules?

      Honestly, maybe it isn’t a bad idea. The GOP brand is so bad that maybe it’s best not to try and reform them and hope another fiscally conservative party will rise instead.

  2. Sounds like CO is the place to be. Now if they could only kick out the Californians…

  3. the 5 ng limit is low

    as a point of comparison, i went and checked my last two dui pot arrests.

    in both cases, the thc levels were in the TWENTIES.

    iow, over 4 times 5 ng.

    1. Is there going to be some sort of field sobriety test?

      What’s going to be the PC to get a blood test done?

      Or is this just going to be a situation where every cop in Kirkland polls over anyone with a Bob Marley sticker on their car and forces them into a blood test?

      1. we already have FST’s. i use the NHTSA standardized battery (HGN, One Leg Stand, Walk and Turn). often, i will add the romberg alphabet, or any # of other tests.

        the PC will be the same PC that already exists. nothing is changing except the threshold thc levels for CONVICTION.

        the arrest etc. procedures won’t change.

        PC is PC. RS is RS.

        we’ ve been making DUI pot arrests for decades nothing is changing.

        some things i look for (remember it’s all about totality of the circs. none of these things in and of themselves necessarily are dispositive)

        coating on tongue
        odor of marijuana in car/on clothes
        marijuana in car/on person/in possession
        glassy eyes
        inability to divide attention
        performance on the FST’s (most important)
        driving pattern
        witness statements
        in general showing indicia of impairment WITHOUT odor of cogeners/liquor

        like ANY arrest based on PC, it’s all about the TOTALITY of the circ’s

        my last DUI POT arrest, I had a vehicle that smelled of MJ smoke, a crappy driving pattern, a coated tongue, NO nystagmus but horrible performance on the other 2 NHTSA battery tests, admission of marijuana use just prior to driving, and it resulted in conviction

        1. It still amazes me that anyone gets busted for DUI for pot. Why the fuck would anyone admit that they had just smoked pot? Otherwise, you can just say you have allergies and are tired.

          1. I don’t understand why anyone admits anything, ever.

            1. among other things, MJ is not known for causing people to do intelligent things and make intelligent choices.

              1. I don’t just men MJ, I mean people who admit to crimes under questioning.

                Why on earth are people stupid enough to not engage their right to remain silent?

                1. well, first of all, talking to police CAN AND DOES *benefit* some people, mostly the innocent. i see that all the time.

                  but if you are asking why guilty people make CONFESSIONS (iow admissions of guilt) that has a lot to do with psychology – guilt, a desire to please the interrogator, shame, etc.

                  i’ve taken reid and advanced reid interrogation courses and we covered the psychology to an extent. the reality is that there is a natural desire to confess. it’s hardwired in. it’s not just the catholic church that recognizes this

                  1. I stand by my position: Don’t talk to the police.


                    1. and we’ve gone over this before. i stand by my position that THAT position is wrong. it’s ultimately harmful to the individual. in many cases, it’s good advice, but in many cases , it’s very harmful

                      but we’ve gone over this many many time. not doing it again

                    2. Dunphy – I understand your comments about not wanting to go through it again, but if you could humor me. WhileI understand every now and then it could have a benefit, as far as percentages rule, doesn’t the times people talk wayyyy outdo the few times here and there it does help? So while there may be some cases it could help, without knowing all the individual psychology of the cops involved and all the legal nuance, isn’t it a good general guideline? I would think the worst that could happen to me by keeping quiet (whether or not I’m guilty) is way less than even the likely outcome of talking. If you don’t want to go into it – I certainly understand and can probably search through comments to reference previous discussions, but if you’re in a talkative mood, I’d appreciate the info.

          2. right. and without admissions, it makes a conviction LESS likely. it does not eliminate the possibility. i’ve seen plenty of convictions in cases where there were no admissions, dui cases i’ve made

            also, as i have explained, on LOW LEVEL offenses, when people make admissions i am (and many other cops are ) more likely to give a warning vs.a cite/arrest.

            some people make that gamble. honesty CAN help *or* hurt you if you are guilty even.

            but it’s a tuff gamble. from a PENAL interest angle, better not to make admissions.

            1. Uh, I should have read first before commenting – you pretty much answered my question here.

        2. So what you’re telling me is, that 5ng may be a convictable level, if that level does not actually cause driving impairment, a person is likely to not even be pulled over.

          In fact if they are pulled over for a different offense, and they haven’t consumed MJ in a considerable amount of time and thus do not exhibit any of these other traits, it’s unlikely they would even be subjected to a FST.

          1. i think … yes.

            fwiw, i am certain that PLENTY of hardcore drunks iow those for whom .08 would be undetectable w/o nystagmus and some other very specific tests get pulled over and not cited for DUI all the frigging time.

            your average hardcore drunk will NOT appear impaired at .08. quite the opposite.

            iow, while it still sounds like the threshold ThC level needs to be tweaked, i don’t think it’s as problematic PRACTICALLY SPeaking as one might suspect for reasons given.

            however, assume a collision where a blood draw is done and the person is 6 ng. oops. now, it’s a DUI collision with the attendant messed up civil aspects as well as criminal ones

            1. The collision aspects are the important ones as far as these levels go then.

              I think the only way this gets tweaked though is if LEO supports the change. People will be too scared that upping the legal allowable amount of THC while driving will result in REEFER MADNEZZ on teh ROADz!!!

              1. part of the problem is that very few (including in law enforcement) have even a cursory understanding of these levels and the science behind them. i admittedly don’t, and i’ve testified as an “expert witness” in DUI invesitgations.

                but i’ll readily admit i had no idea prior to passage of 502, WHAT the threshold limit was, let alone the ramifications of same.

                the prima facie levels (.10 and later .08)for alcohol were arrived at through experimentation and analysis. we need to do the same with pot levels

    2. iow, over 4 times 5 ng

      Not only is dunphy and powerlifting, surfing, supercop, but he’s also an amazing mathematician. He truly is becoming more like Buckaroo Banzai every day.

      1. for umpteenth time.


        not powerlifting.


        (i like this video. just some kids goofing around at wling camp, but it shows the athleticism in our sport… very unlike powerlifting. i have great respect for PLing, but it’s about STRENGTH and STRENGTH only, not athleticism, speed, explosiveness, flexibility, etc. which are all important in WLing)




        note in the 2nd video, James is currently in prison for a brutal robbery he participated in. sad that he’d let that talent go to waste and that he chose to hang out with thugs in maui. prosecutor who did the case did a great job.

  4. I always thought the WA measure was kind of lame, but I’m just happy that such a historical measure was passed, and by a significant margin.

    Hopefully, Colorado will have even more success, and the rest of the country will see that as the preferable path to take.

    1. yea, but i think the fact that WA doesn’t allow municipalities to opt out is VASTLY superior. we are establishing a STATEWIDE rule that it’s legal to possess MJ. that’s more powerful.

      1. That part is good in the WA’s case because they don’t have dispensaries yet.

        In CO, I would say most municipalities that would opt out already have done so in the case of Med MJ.

        1. most likely true. imagine in CO though you have to worry on a road trip whether any particular city /county, you are legal or not. WA is simple – enter our state boundaries, and you are GOOD TO GO

          i’ll be curious to see how much WA dispensaries charge, post tax. it seems many think it will be less than black market prices.

          1. I thought that the municipalities could opt out of having retail locations, not making possession legal. Am I missing something?

            1. no, *i* was missing something. my bad.

              1. The Reason post states that I-502 “does not let local governments ban … stores within their jurisdictions… to discourage purchases from the illegal market.” So in theory no equivalent of dry counties or towns, although that is a point the state legislature could try to amend if the initiative is still law in two years.

  5. Better than the alternatives. I wonder how cops will be able to determine whether pot in someone’s possession came from a taxed source or not. This, I contend, is the major obstacle in getting laws liberalized…the State wants its cut, but can’t figure out how to do it reliably.

    1. my understanding is (in WA) that possessing NONtaxed MJ is not a crime, though fwiw. as long as you possess an amount that doesn’t exceed the threshold weight, it’s legal, no matter where you got it from

      i am entirely willing to concede i’m wrong, but that’s what i was told by an advocate, and looking at the law i see nothing to dispute that

    2. It wouldn’t be hard, put the onus on the individual – basically, you have to show a tax stamp or some other thing that proves it. If you had black market pot in a legal container, you’d be fine similar to the way it’d be if you put moonshine in a vodka bottle. Pot is still pretty cheap from what I understand I think most people would pay whatever small premium there is just to eliminate legal hassles.

  6. ill have to check my RCW, but the article claims that a DUI pot arrest/conviction requires evidence of impairment.

    a dui LIQUOR conviction does not. it’s a bifurcated (pronged) test.

    iow, the state must prove the person operated a motor vehicle on a way within the state of WA (Note: *not* public way… dui can be prosecuted on private property here), and that the person EITHER

    1) was impaired by liquor


    2) was a .08

    it only needs to prove one OR the other.

    of course, they often go together, but it is POSSIBLE, in fact LIKELY for a hardcore alcoholic to NOT be impaired by liquor but still be a .08. heck, for a hardcore alcoholic .08 is below homeostasis levels, quite likely

    regardless, it may be true that in the case of DUI pot, BOTH need be proved ( i haven’t checked) as the article claims. this would distinguish it from DUI liquor

    1. “Note: *not* public way… dui can be prosecuted on private property here)”

      I fucking hate that. We have that in NH too. I should damn well be able to do drunken donuts on private property if I want to (assuming it is mine or I have permission from the owner).

      1. in WA, you can’t even drive w/ a suspended license on private property. note you can drive WITHOUT a license, but not if you are suspended or revoked

        generally traffic CRIMES are prosecutable on private property – DUI, reckless, suspended, Neg 1 (wet neg), but not infractions (with the exception of handicapped parking violation).

        the problem with blanket allowing DUI on private property is that there are a lot of private property apartment complexes etc. with tons of private roads. i would agree if you are on your own property, or some other piece of property that doesn’t have a bunch of innocents around, dui should be legal

  7. I think it will resemble a foul smelling weed with 5 bladed leaves.

    1. It’s not a weed if you grow it on purpose.

    2. Foul smelling?


  8. Washington has no such requirement, and the tax imposed by I-502 is much heavier: 25 percent at each of three levels (grower to processor, processor to retailer, and retailer to customer). As a result, prices paid by consumers, taking into account wholesaler and retailer markups (which add to the taxable price), will be more than double what they would be without taxes.

    I’m guessing that prices paid by consumers will remain unchanged, as people keep buying on the black market as the bureaucrats futilely try to figure out how to grow weed, and then sell weed in state run stores with onerous taxation, all without incurring the wrath of the feds.

    1. In order for this to really work, the prices needs to come down dramatically. If possession is completely legal, but the legal market is overpriced, the black market will remain in some form.

      I definitely think they can do it though, and hopefully they’ll add home growing in over time.

    2. My guess is that while they’re dropping arrests on people, there will be hell to pay if you’re caught carrying or selling black market stuff the same way selling your own booze would. The state hates competition so I’m guessing they’ll get medieval enough on people to keep black market’s unprofitable or at least eliminate any price advantages they have.

  9. So, if pot is now legal to carry around, it would suggest more people would now buy pot in Colorado. There are currently limited or no legal dispensaries, which means you have suddenly increased the demand for pot in Colorado with the market controlled by people who were formerly selling a product deemed illegal. It just goes to show you the absolute ridiculous view people have regarding the use of marijuana. How is it a crime to smoke a joint? Who are we allowing to control the discussions about drug use in this country? Goodie two shoes moral crusaders out to tell us how we should be living our lives. I believe in Liberty. To me, liberty is the ability for me to make the free choice to smoke a joint, sit on my couch, and write a comment on a web page. That is freedom, and it feels great!

  10. Weed will be legal everywhere soon! I can’t wait and I was happy to read this. [evil smile]
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    Ace @ uIntoxicate.com

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