Implementation of Washington's I-502: A progress report

By Steve Freng
Northwest HIDTA Prevention/Treatment Manager

The previous edition of this newsletter closely followed the full implementation of the production, processing and retail sales of marijuana and marijuana-infused products in Washington State. On July 8, 2013, the first five retail stores opened, offering products legalized and produced for persons 21 years of age and older under the auspices of Initiative 502. Much has happened since that date, with several recent events and ongoing developments detailed as follows.

Just before the publication of this edition, the Washington State Liquor Control Board (LCB) had approved and issued licenses for 119 of the 334 retail stores stipulated in the Initiative, 113 of which have reported retail sales. A total of 381 licenses have been approved and issued to marijuana producers, with 330 active licensees, and a total of 335 licenses have been approved and issued to processors, with 288 active licensees. These figures do not indicate the number of licensees that have been approved to operate as both producers and processors. In total, the LCB reports that this nascent industry has to date generated sales of over $95 million, with over $23,700,000 in excise taxes due to the State of Washington.

And, as the shortages that characterized the start of the state’s legal marijuana market have eased, prices in retail stores have decreased as much as 40 percent since June of last year. LCB data show that licensed producers had harvested approximately 31,000 pounds of marijuana as of mid-January, but the limited number of retail stores have sold less than one-fifth of that total. Nonetheless, prices that had been as much as $35 a gram in July have been reduced to $10-15 a gram in some locations. (Please see this page for full article).

Marijuana use dips slightly among teens in 2014,
national Monitoring the Future survey shows
After five years on the rise, marijuana use among teens in a three-grade study group declined slightly in 2014, a new national survey of teens concludes.

The University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future study, conducted annually among 40,000 to 50,000 students in 8th, 10th and 12th grades, shows a decline in marijuana use from 26 percent to 24 percent this year for the three grades combined.

"The belief that regular marijuana use harms the user, however, continues to fall among youth, so changes in this believe do not seem to explain the change in use this year as it has done over most of the life of the study," said Lloyd Johnston, the study's principal investigator.

Both alcohol and cigarette use in 2014 are at their lowest points since the study began in 1975. Use of the number of illicit drugs also show declines this year. The use of e-cigarettes by teens surpassed "regular" cigarette use.

"In sum, there is a lot of good news in this year's results, but the problems of teen substance use and abuse are still far from going away," Johnston said.

A Dec. 16 news release hitting the high points and the complete summary may be downloaded from the Monitoring the Future web site. The Office of National Drug Control Policy has also posted an article summarizing the survey.

Mentioned in the Media

Seattle Times
How Washington and Alaskan pot laws compare
Now that Alaska voters have approved legal recreational marijuana, the Seattle Times examines how possession, sales and use laws compare between the two states. As with Washington, Alaska regulators will have a complicated set of steps to take before legal marijuana sales can begin. Read more in an article by Evan Bush in the Seattle Times. 

Bellingham Herald
Alaska becomes third state to
approve legal recreational marijuana
Alaska on Tuesday became the third U.S. state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, but organizers don't expect any public celebrations since it remains illegal to smoke marijuana in public. In the state's largest city, Anchorage police officers are ready to start handing out $100 fines to make sure taking a toke remains something to be done behind closed doors. Read more in a report by the Associated Press via the Bellingham Herald.

Seattle Times
Mexican opium farmers expand
plots to supply US heroin boom
Much of the lucrative opium market to U.S. begins in the poppy fields of southern Mexico. Local farmers feel they have no choice, according to an Associated Press article in the Seattle Times. 




A Dec. 9, 2014 webinar co-hosted by The Heritage Foundation and SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) features the views on marijuana legalization of two U.S. Congressmen who are also physicians, along with a panel of experts. The webinar covers  the impacts on young brains as well as to the hearts, lungs and mental health on adult population. In making their case against further legalization, panelists also discuss the business and economic impacts of pot and state that there is still much scientifically unknown about the drug.


Office of National Drug Control Policy