The voters of Washington have made clear how they want to see marijuana use treated in Washington State. Why then are three state representatives laying the groundwork to silence Washington voters by encouraging a slowdown of I-502’s implementation?
On January 9, 2013, three House democrats from King County (Chris Hurst of Enumclaw, whose panel oversees cannabis, Ross Hunter of Medina, the lead budget writer, and Reuven Carlyle of Seattle, who leads on taxes) wrote Washington’s Liquor Control Board (LCB) that the LCB’s timeline for I-502 was too “aggressive,” and that the initiative should be opened up by the Legislature for tweaking.
Specifically, Rep. Hunter was quoted saying that “[t]here is no rush” to issue marijuana grower licenses by May 2013. Rep. Hunter said that he “ … [doesn’t] have a problem with legalizing [cannabis]. [But he does have] a problem with … the [LCB] hiring a whole bunch of people [the State doesn’t] have the budget for.” Though this may sound reasonable, the best way to recoup the costs of implementing the new marijuana regime is to do so quickly, not by delaying it.
Rep. Hurst, a former police officer who was anti-I-502, was quoted by the Seattle Times as saying that there are “serious problems” with the initiative. Rep. Hurst thinks that charing $1000 for cannabis licenses is way too low and that a lottery or auction licensing system would be more appropriate because, “[i]f we’re really going to have a free market, we should consider what the market will bear.”
Rep. Hurst also suggested holding off on fully implementing the new law until the Obama Administration indicates how it will respond to I-502, which plays directly into the hands of frightened politicians and the attorneys at the Justice Department. I-502 had a number of goals, one of which was to push the federal government to make meaningful changes in federal law. By waiting for federal approval, Rep. Hurst is asking the Legislature and the LCB to let the initiative fail.
Washington voters can nonetheless rest easy for now. Neither Rep. Hurst nor Rep. Hunter are likely to be able to slow down I-502 or its implementation schedule unless they can get two-thirds of the Legislature on their side.