Pubdate: Sat, 03 Jan 2015
Source: Daily Times (Primos, PA)
Copyright: 2015 The Associated Press
Author: Gene Johnson, The Associated Press


SEATTLE (AP) - A year into the nation's experiment with legal, taxed 
marijuana sales, Washington and Colorado find themselves wrestling 
not with the federal interference many feared, but with competition 
from medical marijuana or even outright black market sales.

In Washington, the black market has exploded since voters legalized 
marijuana in 2012, with scores of legally dubious medical 
dispensaries opening and some pot delivery services brazenly 
advertising that they sell outside the legal system.

Licensed shops say taxes are so onerous that they can't compete.

Colorado , which launched legal pot sales last New Year's Day, is 
facing a lawsuit from Nebraska and Oklahoma alleging that they're 
being overrun with pot from the state.

And the number of patients on Colorado's medical marijuana registry 
went up, not down, since 2012, meaning more marijuana users there can 
avoid paying the higher taxes that recreational pot carries.

Officials in both states say they must do more to drive customers 
into the recreational stores. They're looking at reining in their 
medical systems and fixing the big tax differential between medical 
and recreational weed without harming patients. Cannabis City clerk 
John Golby, left, helps customers looking over a display case of 
marijuana products Tuesday at the shop in Seattle. A year into the 
nation's experiment with legal, taxed marijuana sales, Washington and 
Colorado find themselves with a cautionary tale for Oregon, Alaska or 
other states that might follow suit.

And in some cases, they are considering cracking down on the 
proliferating black market.

"How can you have two parallel systems, one that's regulated, paying 
taxes, playing by the rules, and the other that's not doing any of 
those things?" said Rick Garza of the Washington Liquor Control 
Board, which oversees recreational pot.

The difficulty of reconciling medical marijuana with taxed 
recreational pot offers a cautionary tale for states that might join 
Washington and Colorado in regulating the adult use of the drug.

While legalization campaigns have focused on the myriad ills of 
prohibition, including racial discrepancies in who gets busted for 
weed, the promise of additional tax revenues in tight budget times 
was in no small part of the appeal.

Weed sales have so far brought in some revenue, though less than 
officials might have hoped.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom