Twenty months after Washington residents voted to legalize recreational marijuana, the first marijuana stores in the state have finally opened–and business is booming. In fact, a number of stores anticipated selling out all product right on the first day of operation.
This was the case with Cannabis City’s Amber McGowan, who expected to sell all 10 pounds of the Seattle-based outlet which she manages. Citing the hesitance of marijuana customers to purchase from ‘shady’ drug dealers, McGowan said that there is definitely a market for legal marijuana in the state.
Washington State follows in the heels of Colorado, which opened its first marijuana retail outlets in January 2014. Voters of both Colorado and Washington State had previously effected the legalization of recreational marijuana in amounts of up to an ounce.
Although both states had voted to legalize recreational marijuana in November 2012, only Colorado had been permitted to sell from legal outlets. This is because stores in the state were restricted to selling only medical marijuana, which was a tightly regulated industry anyway. In contrast, the medical marijuana industry in Washington had been run with little government control.
Not everyone welcomed the easy accessibility of marijuana in Washington. Dr. Leslie Walker of the Seattle Children’s Hospital for one cited the potential negative effects of legalization to society, particularly to the youth. Walker was especially concerned that legalization would result in more children of school age experiencing issues with short-term memory and being unable to “get up (and) go to school”.
Although these supposed effects of marijuana use require more clinical studies in order to prove them, many in the state share in these concerns. Some individuals in the marijuana industry have their concerns as well. Amber McGowan for one warns of the higher THC content in many of the edible marijuana products available today compared to the THC content in edibles of the 1960s. In order to prevent any untoward incidents, McGowan cautions new users from taking too much marijuana, and to stay away from edibles altogether until sufficient tolerance has been developed.
In any case, recreational marijuana in Washington will initially be available only in limited supply. Customers of Cannabis City for example, will only be limited to two grams of marijuana per person on the first day of business. Marijuana is also expected to be in relatively short supply because new licensed growers are not expecting to harvest their product until late in the summer. Because of the limited supply, prices are therefore expected to be on the high end of the scale. At $25 per gram, legal marijuana is expected to be twice the price of black market pot.
Under the current laws, the marijuana industry in Washington is also subject to heavy taxation at every juncture. When the harvest is sold to processors, 25% tax will be collected by the government. A similar percentage is also collected when the processed pot is sold to the retail outlets, and when it is sold to customers. About forty percent of these taxes will be funneled into the general fund of the state, with the rest going to drug prevention and treatment programs.