All Lit Up: Washington Marijuana Retail Sales Set to Commence

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

Washington was one of two states to pass a law legalizing marijuana in late 2012, and now, after a year and a half of waiting, stores are ready to open up to the general public. We’ve all sat back and watched what has happened in Colorado, where legalization has had a successful start, banking the state millions in tax revenue and giving interested parties a place to spend their money besides the black market. Other states have been watching closely as well, looking for weaknesses in Colorado’s plan, and working with community groups to gather signatures to get their own bills on the ballot.

While Colorado has been enjoying the benefits of legalized retail sales for the past six months, Washington has been lagging behind, mostly due to the state’s regulatory commission put in charge of overseeing the process, the Liquor Control Board. But things are finally kicking off. The first legal marijuana store in Seattle, the state’s largest city, is set to open up. It’s been a long time coming, as most people have continued to make purchases from the state’s highly-unregulated medical marijuana dispensaries or from black market dealers. Cannabis was decriminalized back in 2012, but its sale was still not legal.

The path to legalization has been wildly different in Washington than it has in Colorado, and many don’t expect the whole process to go down as smoothly or be as lucrative. The law itself is structured differently in Washington, and a tax structure is being implemented that may not produce the best results for the state. Many in Washington are worried that the state’s Liquor Control Board is being far too overbearing on the new market, and as a result, many people will stick to the black and medical marketplaces.

The fact is, for many residents in Washington (Seattle in particular), if you wanted to find marijuana, you could. Decriminalization only made it more out in the open, and the city even holds an annual bash, dubbed Hempfest, which allows for people to come hang out and pass the pipe around. Last year, the Seattle Police Department even showed up and handed out bags of chips to attendees. Also, the city’s close proximity to British Columbia, a hotbed for top-quality cannabis, has made it a part of Washington culture to some extent.

The legalization of cannabis in Washington is a good thing, without a doubt. But in order to make it as successful as Colorado’s, Washington legislators might need to make some revisions.