2013’s highlights on road to legal marijuana
It was a historic year in marijuana policy, especially here in Washington state, where officials created a system for selling recreational pot that’s untested on the planet. We recap the highlights in a 2013 timeline.
Seattle Times staff reporter
The year began shortly after Colorado and Washington altered the drug-policy landscape by legalizing weed the previous November. At the start of 2013, both states got down to writing rules to implement the will of the voters. By year’s end, both states had created a framework for regulating the commercial production, processing and selling of recreational marijuana. Along the way, milestones occurred here in Washington and as far away as Uruguay.
The state Liquor Control Board, charged with implementing Washington’s legal pot law, begins holding public hearings. Seattle City Hall is packed to capacity on Jan. 24. John Eskola, representing small medical-marijuana growers, seems to speak for many when he tells board members: “The war is over. We won. Don’t punish us, take our money.”
Washington state hires pot consultants, led by Mark Kleiman, a UCLA professor. Kleiman quickly makes buzz-killing news, declaring that tax revenue from pot will fall far short of projections for 2014.
After a Seattle Times story about the large carbon footprint of indoor pot farms, the state Liquor Control Board reverses course and allows sun-grown pot in greenhouses. Later the board goes further and allows fenced outdoor fields of pot.
Former Microsoft manager Jamen Shively declares he wants to be “Big Marijuana” with a brand of pot sold across the nation. Shively and Vicente Fox, former president of Mexico, hold a news conference on the 40th floor of Seattle’s Columbia Center to urge an end to pot prohibition.
For the city’s first Hempfest with legal pot, the Seattle Police Department conducts Operation Orange Fingers. Cops hand out bags of cheesy Doritos with educational messages affixed. One tip from cops about Pink Floyd: “Do listen to ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ at a reasonable volume.”
In perhaps the year’s biggest pot news, the federal Department of Justice says it will let Colorado and Washington proceed with legal pot as long as they adhere to eight priorities, including keeping legal pot from minors.
The state adopts revised rules. Residents and nonresidents are allowed to buy one ounce per visit at the state’s 334 proposed retail stores, which can be open from 8 a.m. to midnight. (Colorado limits nonresidents to one-quarter ounce to deter “smurfing,” or aggregating small purchases so they can be sold in another state.)
A new Gallup Poll shows a big jump in support for legalizing pot, with 58 percent in favor, a new national high. It’s quite a leap from the time Gallup first asked the question in 1969, when only 12 percent favored legalization.
More drivers are testing positive for marijuana since Washington legalized the drug, according to the State Patrol. In the first six months of 2013, the patrol’s crime lab reports that 745 people tested positive for marijuana. Typically, there are about 1,000 positive pot tests on drivers in a full year, according to the State Patrol, which said it’s looking more for pot impairment and might be ordering more tests.
The Liquor Control Board issues recommendations to the Legislature for reconciling the largely unregulated medical marijuana system with the regulated recreational market. Patients would be allowed fewer plants and a smaller supply, and would face new medical definitions and new restrictions on doctors authorizing medical marijuana.
Uruguay becomes the first country to legalize marijuana. With just 3.3 million people, the South American country is smaller in area and population than Washington. Each household is allowed six plants and adults can buy up to 40 grams per month in pharmacies.
Washington state appears bullish on marijuana, as wannabe entrepreneurs submit applications for 4,946 pot business licenses. Growers seeks licenses in 38 of 39 counties and retailers apply for 244 store licenses in Seattle — almost 12 times as many as the 21 stores state officials have allocated to the city.
Information from The Seattle Times archives and The Associated Press is included in this report.
Bob Young: 206-464-2174 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @potreporter