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Originally published Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 6:20 PM

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State liquor board to make rules against pot at bars

The state Liquor Control Board decided to start making rules aimed at stopping the proliferation of bars allowing pot use.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The state Liquor Control Board voted Wednesday to start making rules aimed at stopping the consumption of marijuana in bars.

“It is important that the board clarify now that consuming marijuana in a state liquor-licensed establishment is not acceptable,” said board Chair Sharon Foster. “Public consumption of marijuana is clearly illegal under Washington’s new law.”

The issue became a concern for the board and Gov. Jay Inslee after an Associated Press story about two venues, Frankie’s, in Olympia, and Stonegate, in Tacoma, letting patrons use pot within their walls. Inslee is concerned about the proliferation of pot bars.

Voters legalized recreational pot through Initiative 502. But I-502 prohibits public consumption, specifically in public view. The law charges the liquor board with implementing a new legal recreational pot market.

The board also is concerned that mixing alcohol and marijuana in liquor-licensed locations could cause increased impaired driving.

Under the rule-making process, the board now begins taking public comment on its proposal. It will file draft rules in late May, hold a public hearing on the draft rules in late June, and then vote to accept or reject rules in early July.

Frankie’s and Stonegate are trying to avoid obvious violations. They’re getting around the ban on public use by turning parts of their bars into private clubs for pot users. And Stonegate is circumventing the state indoor smoking ban by having customers vaporize their pot, which doesn’t create smoke.

As it stands, if patrons are ingesting their own personal pot the only enforcement action the liquor board can take under the new state law is to issue civil infractions, with $103 fines against customers for public use.

New rules would hope to prohibit liquor licensees from allowing such behavior, so liquor-board-enforcement officers wouldn’t have to write tickets to individual consumers.

The owner of Frankie’s said last week that he has no intention of changing his bar’s policy. His pot patrons are well-behaved, he said, and most are medical-marijuana patients.

“What the hell is the difference,” said Frankie Schnarrs, “if somebody smokes in the parking lot or inside?”

Bob Young: 206-464-2174 or byoung@seattletimes.com

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