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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.

Washington Governor 'Surprised' Medical Marijuana Regulation Failed

Austin Jenkins
Northwest News Network
Governor Jay Inslee speaks with reporters at a news conference following the adjournment of the Washington legislature

Washington Governor Jay Inslee says he’s surprised and disappointed medical marijuana regulation died in the state legislature this year.

Lawmakers adjourned Thursday night without approving a merger of the medical market with the new voter-approved recreational pot system. Inslee says he expects the legislature will take up the issue again next January.

“I do believe we need a regulated system to assure medical marijuana patients that they in fact do have a legal ability to get access to medical marijuana and that will also satisfy the federal government that we have a disciplined, regulated system.”

Currently, Washington’s medical marijuana industry is a largely unregulated. It includes home grows, large production facilities called collective gardens, and store-front access points.

The legislation would have closed down the gardens, required patients to register with the state and merged the medical retailers with the new recreational ones.

Part of what led to the demise of the consolidation was a disagreement over whether local governments should get a share of the new tax revenue from the legal marijuana industry.

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."