Monday, October 27, 2014

Seattle marijuana businesses and preventing teen marijuana use

Over the past few days the Seattle Times published two opinions about the emerging recreational marijuana system and what they see as barriers to the establishment of a commercial marketplace.

On October 24, an opinion piece laments, “The fact that Seattle, triple the size of any other city in Washington, has only a handful of stores is ‘odd’ . . . because there are 21 locations authorized for the city.”  Though there are multiple reasons for less than 5 of those 21 retailers opening shop at this point, the writer suggests that, “Tweaking I-502 to loosen the 1,000 foot rule seems an obvious fix for some of this.”  (The 1,000 foot rule disallows marijuana businesses from being within 1,000 feet of schools, community centers, parks, and other places where children congregate.)

Instead of allowing for more marijuana retailers, Seattle should support limits on the number of retailers since such limits on businesses selling alcohol and tobacco are proven methods for preventing teen alcohol and tobacco use.  If marijuana legalization is to be successful in keeping the drug out of the hands of minors, then limiting retail outlets is sound policy to implement and support.

Getting rid of recreational marijuana’s main competition – medical marijuana – is one way to encourage more recreational marijuana retailers to open shop.  As an October 25 editorial states, “In reality, Seattle marijuana users shun recreational stores because they’re getting the cannabis from a larger, cheaper and unregulated source: medical marijuana dispensaries.  As Seattle’s former U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan warned last month, medical marijuana is ‘not a loophole: It is the market.’”

The editorial goes on to say that the state legislature is to blame.  However, the City of Seattle can do something before the legislature decides whether or not to act on medical marijuana.  They can start by enforcing their own law and closing down medical marijuana businesses that opened within the last year.  Medical marijuana retailers are not recognized or protected by state law so they can be shut down if the political will exists.

With almost 40% of Seattle high school students who use marijuana reporting that they used marijuana that came from a medical marijuana dispensary, closing them is another way of preventing teen access to the drug.

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