The Capitol Record

Senator urges liquor control board to speed up new marijuana law

The state Liquor Control Board has a year to come up with the rules for the state’s new marijuana legalization law — but that doesn’t mean they should take that long to do it, said Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle.

In less than a week, it’ll be legal for adults in the state to possess up to an ounce of marijuana. Prosecutors in several Washington counties have dropped pending marijuana possession cases in advance of Dec. 6, the day the law goes into effect.

“During that year where it’s legal on the street, my fear is that gangs — who are nobody’s friend — are going to take over the market and entrench themselves the longer that period of time goes,” Kline said at a Senate labor committee today during a briefing on the issue.

Speaking to representatives from the liquor board, Kline said: “I know you’ve got a year and you want to do this deliberately, but the request on my part is deliberate speed.”

Alison Holcomb, who headed the I-502 campaign to legalize marijuana, disagreed. She said the year gives the liquor control board time to be “thoughtful” about creating a legal framework for the new law.

“There’s been an unregulated market for marijuana for over 100 years in this country,” Holcomb told the committee. “Patterns of enforcing our criminal laws have had absolutely no effect.”

Members of the committee also got an update on I-1183, the initiative passed by voters that got the state out of the liquor business.

Grocery stores have been allowed to sell liquor since June. Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, said she’s worried about an increase in thefts at the stores — including one Safeway that was robbed of $90,000 worth of high-end liquor.

“I was concerned about young people, but it turns out this is a professional organized crime process underway,” Keiser said. “It’s not young people. It is professional thieves getting high-end liquor off the shelves.”

Keiser said local police departments have asked for additional funding to investigate the liquor crimes. “This is a cost to the public tax dollar,” said Keiser, who said additional police work should be considered when looking at the “big view” of the cost of liquor privatization.

Watch the full meeting below:

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