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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Washington Liquor Control Officers Want Full Law Enforcement Powers

OLYMPIA, Wash. –Liquor control officers in Washington say they need more authority to combat the black market for booze, cigarettes and, soon, marijuana. State lawmakers on Tuesday will take testimony on a proposal to give full police powers to liquor enforcement officers.

Washington has 56 officers who police the stores and restaurants that sell liquor and tobacco products. Now that private retailers can sell booze, there are nearly three times as many liquor licenses statewide and theft has become a significant problem.

That’s not all. Josh Bolender is a liquor officer representing his union. He says when the production and sale of recreational marijuana becomes legal in Washington he and his fellow officers may come up against another problem: drug cartels.

“We do anticipate as we investigate unlicensed retailers of cannabis that we could find ourselves in situations where there’s also other drugs present, certainly weapons and those sorts of things,” Bolender says.

Currently, Washington Liquor Control Officers have limited police powers. Under the proposed legislation they would be sent to the police academy and given authority to enforce all state laws, not just liquor, cigarette and pot related licensing issues.

On the Web:

Washington Liquor Control Enforcement and Education - Washington State Liquor Control Board

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."