Washington marijuana tax questioned at hearings

EVERETT, Wash. (AP) — How can Washington have one system for medical marijuana and another system with separate rules and taxes for recreational marijuana?

That’s one question people are asking at a series of statewide meetings the state Liquor Control Board is holding on the rules that will regulate recreational marijuana production and sales.

It’s a question the Legislature will have to answer, Liquor Board Chair Sharon Foster said at Tuesday’s meeting in Everett.

The board is working with the departments of health and revenue, to try to come up with recommendations to the Legislature on how to resolve the taxing issue, The Daily Herald reported Wednesday (http://bit.ly/199Z4Al ).

Another meeting was held Tuesday evening in Seattle. Two more hearings are being held Wednesday in Olympia and Ellensburg. A fifth and final hearing will be Thursday in Spokane.

The hearings are part of the process for implementing Initiative 502, which was approved by voters in November to legalize marijuana for adults. The Liquor Control Board will regulate growing, distributing and selling marijuana in stores that could open early next year — unless the Justice Department intervenes.

Pot remains illegal federally, and the DOJ could sue to try to block the licensing structures in Washington and Colorado from taking effect.

“Anything we would say about federal law would be speculation,” Foster said.

“There is a problem not having a clearer signal from the feds,” said Chris Marr, a member of the liquor control board.

The concern raised at the latest round of public hearings is that taxes could make pot store marijuana more expensive than marijuana sold in medical dispensaries or in illegal street sales.

Other people at the Everett meeting were interested in business opportunities.

Jason Bess of Lynnwood said he came to the hearing to get more information on the production, processing and licensing of marijuana because he plans to start a business growing the crop.

“This is a new era for the country,” he said. “In five years, every single state will have marijuana.”

Matt Barron of Everett also wants to be in the right position to profit.

“This is like a lottery,” he said. “Who’s lucky enough to get a license? I want to be prepared.”

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Information from: The Daily Herald, http://www.heraldnet.com

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