Pubdate: Thu, 09 Jul 2015
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2015 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Dan Fumano
Page: 6


Wash. State: Still No Useful Data on Usage, Effects After Yearlong 
Legal Sales Initiative

Washington state's first year of legal pot sales has brought in 
millions in new tax revenue, but critics have raised concerns over 
how that money's been spent, and what effect legalization could have 
on public health.

The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs opposed the 
legalization initiative from the outset, and at the close of the 
first year of legal sales, executive director Mitch Barker still says 
it's "bad public policy."

"Our main concerns going in were increased access to underage people, 
which we think it has increased access to underage kids. I don't have 
stats, so I guess time and statisticians will tell," he said.

"I know at least anecdotally from the school districts we're hearing 
from, they're seeing a lot more overdoses, but a lot of that is 
probably tied to the fact that fewer kids are smoking dope and more 
are eating it, and they're eating way more dosage units."

Barker's association is also concerned over the impact on 
marijuana-affected car accidents, but he said: "We're going to have 
to wait and see what that looks like over time, statistically to see 
if it was an increase."

Dr. Staci Hoff, director of research and data for the Washington 
Traffic Safety Commission, said her department just doesn't "have the 
data we need" at this point to answer questions about any increases 
in marijuana-impaired drivers, but there was not a substantial 
increase in overall traffic fatalities for 2014.

Hoff said the Traffic Safety Commission hopes to release a new report 
in the next three to five weeks that will "finally get down to the 
question of what's happened in 2014. Are people driving stoned?"

Roger Roffman, professor emeritus of Social Work at the University of 
Washington, was one of 10 co-sponsors of the 2012 initiative to 
legalize marijuana. But despite his support for legalization, he 
said: "From the public health point of view, the first year has been 
a disappointment."

A specialist in addictive behaviours, Roffman said he supported 
legalization because he believed that if tax revenue from regulated 
marijuana could be put toward public education, treatment and 
research, it would be better for public health than prohibition had been.

Unfortunately, Roffman said, "an entire year went by from the opening 
of the stores without any of those tax revenues being used for that purpose."

Roffman is still optimistic about legalization, and he said now, 
within recent weeks, money is finally starting to flow to those 
education, treatment and prevention programs for which it had 
originally been earmarked.

"Here's the bottom line: I think over time, we will see the intention 
of the initiative actually play out," he said. "But man, the rollout 
of it has been very disappointing."

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Like Vancouver, Wash. state moving toward regulating unlicensed pot shops

Washington's state legislature and Vancouver City Hall are both 
moving toward regulating previously unregulated, unlicensed medical 
marijuana dispensaries.

In Washington, alongside roughly 170 state-licensed recreational pot 
shops, the last two years have seen a proliferation of hundreds of 
unregulated, unlicensed shops.

But this month, a new law comes into effect in Washington, bringing 
medical shops under the same regulatory regime as the recreational stores.

Many medical shops are expected to close. Seattle's city attorney, 
Pete Holmes, said his city has 16 state licensed recreational pot 
shops, and more than 100 unlicensed medical shops in the city. He 
expects more than 60 of those medical shops will not be able to come 
into compliance with state regulations by July 2016, meaning they 
will have to close.

Meanwhile in Vancouver, city council voted last month to become the 
first jurisdiction in Canada to regulate retail marijuana stores.

City hall is now accepting applications from dispensaries looking for 
business licences, with a deadline of Aug. 24, said Andreea Toma, 
Vancouver's chief licence inspector, adding: "Decisions will be made 
within a few days to a few weeks after the application period closes."

At some point after August, city staff will begin enforcement actions 
against the dispensaries who don't apply for licenses, Toma said in 
an email. Enforcement could include injunctions, tickets and 
prosecutions, Toma said, but an exact timeline is unknown.

One local weed expert sees parallels between Vancouver and 
Washington, as both jurisdictions try to curtail recent 
proliferations of previously unregulated and unlicensed medical 
marijuana stores.

But the difference is B.C. has no legal recreational pot stores like 
Washington's, said Vancouver journalist David Brown, and instead has 
several 'medical' dispensaries that are essentially filling both a 
medical and 'recreational' need.

Brown, who writes for marijuana industry website Lift Cannabis, said: 
"Like Washington, Vancouver's regulatory approach will likely see 
about half of the current dispensaries closed."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom