Several months behind Colorado, but still only the second state in our union to do so, Washington state has begun to officially sell recreational marijuana. Sales began on July 8th.
As with Colorado, the first day of sales was largely celebratory and more historic in nature, than anything else. For both states, medical marijuana had already been a thing for several months, and the legalization made the stigma and use of the plant in general largely a non-issue with police and authorities.
Still, the success of the initiative passed in 2012, fully legalizing marijuana for both Colorado and Washington, ultimately hinges entirely on just how well the recreational sales go, and the subsequent cultural dynamic that reverberates because of the legalization.
Will crime go up? So far Colorado's crime rates suggest NO. In fact, in another blog article I did a few weeks ago, Crime Down, Revenue Way Up for Colorado 5 Months Into Marijuana Legalization
, as the title suggests, violent crime actually marginally went down with tax and overall generated revenue exceeding projected estimates.
It will be interesting to track Washington state to see if they can mirror the success of Colorado in the early throws of all this. My educated guess is that they can. Washington has the benefit of "going second", getting to see the likely pitfalls to avoid (thanks to Denver's courage to be the first), and the ability to copy the processes and protocols that are successful.
Regulation, labeling, tax percentages.. these are major hurdles for this new industry. And with taxes, Washington has followed in the footsteps of Colorado, charging an additional 25% sales tax on every sale. That in effect makes buying from a retail recreational marijuana shop 25% more expensive than going the medical marijuana route (or the decriminalized, unsanctioned route too). Even still, I don't see that as too big a price to pay to have the entire purchasing process on the "up and up". For the average citizen that just wants or really needs the plant, for recreation or for medical purposes, to have the transaction completely sanctioned by all authorities, under zero gauze of "this is for a headache, right?" or not having to "look over your shoulder for a cop or an FBI agent"... the tax is, I believe, fair and negligible.
As for labeling, Washington is also benefiting from learning from Colorado's early mistakes
. Edibles were largely the main issue for Colorado in the early stages of opening their doors to the public. The "serving size" was misleading customers into eating too much, causing for much more of an effect than buyers had bargained for. Colorado has since changed their serving size regulations and warning labels, and Washington followed suit from jump street.
. This is the part that instills with me the most hope that Washington will be at least as successful, if not more so than their counterpart down south. The amount of regulation that the state has made the retailers go through, the entire process appears to be staggeringly, even painstakingly arduous. But well thought out and very effective.
The marijuana has to be state grown and bar-coded. The initial crops were not allowed to be grown until March of this year. The locations where they could grow had to be far away from any schools, and meet several tedious specifications. The state only issued a grand total of 334 licenses for the first year of sales throughout the entire state. And only about 25 had enough luck, capital, brains and ability to jump through the required hoops to make it possible to sell their product come time. Even still, only a few of those 25 have been able to open their doors to the public. Their product had to be inspected first. And the deadlines and regulations have made it so that most crops just simply weren't ready.
Supply so far is falling far short of demand.
That is a only a temporary problem though. And even though Washington is being super hard on this new industry, I say that's a good thing. Make sure every I and T is dotted and crossed respectively; do absolutely every thing you can right, above board and sound to ensure that your launch is a success. The rest of the country is counting on you to be a positive example that yes, indeed we can fully legalize marijuana and the sky won't fall because of it! In fact, quite the opposite. People want it. People need it. It SHOULD be legal. And the money generated from this new industry will both surprise the detractors and help millions across the country in due time, once everyone else follows suit.