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In 2012, Washington and Colorado voters made history when they approved measures to legalize recreational marijuana. Washington Initiative 502 “authorizes the state liquor board to regulate and tax marijuana for persons twenty-one years of age or older.”Since the vote in Washington, the Liquor Board has written a complex set of rules for the state’s new, legal recreational cannabis marketplace. The agency has also set limits on the amount of marijuana that can be grown. And the Board has begun to license growers, processors and retailers.For now, the Obama administration has signaled it will not interfere with Washington and Colorado’s legal pot experiment, unless there is evidence that legal pot is “leaking” to other states or children are getting access to the legal product. The feds are also watching to see if criminal organizations exploit the legal market.The first marijuana retail stores in Washington opened in July 2014.Recreational marijuana is also set to become legal in Oregon on July 1, 2015 after voters approved Measure 91 in November 2014.

Amid Legal Pot, The Search Continues For Illegal Grows


Legal marijuana grows are just getting started in Washington state. But it’s the illegal ones that local, state and federal agents are searching out this month.

It’s the annual summer marijuana eradication program.

Plant seizures have declined significantly in recent years. The banner year was 2009, when more than 600,000 illegally grown marijuana plants were seized on public and private lands in Washington.

By last year that number had plummeted to about 40,000 plants seized. Oregon and Idaho have also seen a drop off.

Lt. Chris Sweet from the Washington State Patrol said illegal pot growers have changed their tactics over the years.

“The grows are now less plant count,” he said. “They’re planted more sporadically and they’re harder to find.”

Sweet said the 5,000 plants seized so far this year were growing among corn stalks on farm land.

Sweet added that as tips come in about marijuana growing on private property they now work with the Liquor Control Board to first determine if it’s the licensed, legal variety.

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."