Initiative 502 was passed in 2012 under the impression that cannabis would be regulated by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board just like beer, wine or spirits.
In fact, that’s how the initiative backers sold their idea of making pot legal. Unfortunately, that agency has not seen fit to expand their regulations on cannabis tourism and pot clubs.
Bars in Seattle are very afraid of the smell of marijuana in their establishments due the serious consequences they face from a draconian and puritanical WSLCB. Ever wonder why every bar in the city requires ID from patrons at the door regardless of their obvious age? That’s because a liquor license in Washington state is absolute gold for proprietors, and the threat of losing that license could mean a death knell for any business selling alcohol.
If patrons are caught consuming cannabis in a business that sells alcohol, the liquor board could also revoke their license.
What club and bar owners are worried about is the infamous undercover liquor board spy or investigator who may be a minor or who might show false ID. The agent could also turn in the establishment for allowing the smoking of marijuana in their venue. Honestly, most owners are paranoid about this real possibility. One small mistake could mean the end of their business.
This same state agency has now been put in charge of regulating cannabis, and the result is predictable. The WSLCB has displayed intransigence and conservatism in their approach to marijuana. The truth is, the administrators at that agency were never really happy about being commissioned to oversee the legal use of pot. They certainly didn’t smoke ganja, so they were forced to hire smokers and growers to help them understand the culture and business opportunities.
I have spoken to one local Capitol Hill property owner who would like to open up a cannabis hotel where travelers could buy and consume marijuana in a public establishment. Let’s be clear: pot tourism is a potential billion dollar industry, yet at the moment there is nowhere to imbibe pot products legally in a public setting. There is a major disconnect here once you realize how much money could be made from cannabis clubs or pot bars.
Ambitious business owners are ready to invest millions into this vast potential industry if state authorities would just give them the go ahead.
Instead, their efforts to create these pot friendly venues have been stifled by bureaucratic maneuvering.
As I write this column, an effort is currently being launched in Colorado, which could help assist in the birth of these kinds of new innovative business enterprises. One ballot measure would allow local businesses to host public areas where folks can bring their own pot and consume it.
Surprisingly, the Denver NORML initiative to actually create legal cannabis clubs failed to get enough signatures to qualify.
(NOTE: The EU policy on cannabis allows for these kinds of venues. Most major metropolitan areas in England have legal cannabis clubs.)
Washington needs a campaign to legalize the public consumption of cannabis. As a leader in the area of legalization, it is incumbent upon us to launch such an effort now with the support of pot activists and local business investors. Just think about the huge amount of money that could be raised in taxes at a time when our public schools are failing due to lack of funding.
If profit motivated entrepreneurs are already interested in this industry, it’s past time for state regulators and elected representatives to wake up and smell the ganja!
If Seattle wants to retain it’s reputation as an innovative forward thinking city, we should adopt new laws that eliminate the social stigma still plaguing pot tourism. It’s not a dangerous substance and there are millions of responsible users in the United States of America.
If they desperately want to spend their money here, we shouldn’t hesitate to accommodate them!