Washington Initiative 502 Implementation

Although Washington may have legalized recreational marijuana use, South Puget Sound Community College still does not allow marijuana on campus, because the college receives federal funds. A condition of receiving federal funds is that the school must have implemented a program to prevent possession, use, or distribution of illegal drugs or alcohol on campus.

According to SPSCC Director of Security Lonnie Hatman, if a student is caught smoking marijuana on campus, security will contact Olympia Police Department and refer the student to the vice president for Student Services for disciplinary action.

Rhonda Coats, SPSCC’s vice president for Student Services, receives reports from students, faculty, and security for violations of the student code. According to Coats, students accused of violations receive a letter at their home addresses alerting them of any allegations. They then have a chance to explain before any disciplinary action is taken, which could range from a warning to a suspension from the college, said Coats. Coats has not had any students referred to her for smoking marijuana on campus in the past.

According to Coats, a violation of the code will become part of a student’s record, which is detrimental for students. A violation is particularly damaging to students transferring to a four-year college or those getting a job with the federal government, as they look into students’ records, said Coats.

SPSCC student Ian Tidwell said Initiative 502 is a good thing in certain aspects. Tidwell believes that it is good for state revenue, although misinterpretation of the law could cause issues.

SPSCC student Ken Langston said increased state revenue is a positive aspect f I-502. He said he supports that public usage is not allowed, and that it should be kept behind closed doors.

The Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) is hiring for a Marijuana Licensing and Regulatory Manager to oversee and assist in implementation and regulation of this new law. The WSLCB is currently holding forums around Washington to inform the public about the new law and take comments.

The first public forum was in late January in Olympia. There was an overwhelming turnout of citizens who wished to find out more information about the law or enter comments, and the forum hit capacity almost immediately.

While the state is still working on the licensing of production, processing, and retailing marijuana, the basic framework has been set.

I-502 legalizes possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for persons 21 and over for personal, recreational consumption in Washington. The general public still cannot grow marijuana, nor can marijuana be purchased or sold outside a state licensed retailer. Doing so can result in criminal prosecution. Marijuana cannot be used in view of the general public.

Public use can result in a civil infraction, while underage possession or possession more than the allotted amount can result in criminal prosecution. Marijuana is still illegal federally, and prosecution from federal institutions is still a possibility.

According to the WSLCB there is currently a three-tier system of producer, processor, and retailer, each tier having a 25 percent tax paid to the state. The WSLCB is currently in the process of implementing I-502, and has until Dec. 1, 2013 to complete this process.

Bailey Hirschburg, an advocate for the reform of marijuana laws who attended the forum, said he is highly invested in this issue. Hirschburg was a volunteer organizer for I-502 and is involved with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Hirschburg said he wanted to hear what the board has done so far to implement the new law and get a better understanding of their process. He said he also wanted to enter comments on the producer section of the bill, and said it is good to see that the government is popular for the first time ever.

“I hope people recognize that this issue is not just relevant but also popular, it’s good to see people are ready to move forward with this and support change,” said Hirschburg.

Robert Plowman, another attendee, said he went to the forum to see what is going on with the bill, as it seems confusing at this point. He said he believes I-502 will bring a lot of good to Washington’s economy if the bill is implemented correctly.

Plowman also said those that wish to have financial gain as a producer, processor, or retailer should have lived in Washington for at least four years, since Washington residents were those who passed the bill and the people who should gain from it.

Others who attended the forum also had interest in learning more about the current implementation of I-502, such as Will Hume. He said he attended to gauge where everyone is at in the process.

Hume said he was interested to see how the rules surrounding the law will come down in the end. He said that once everything settles down he feels it could be a great thing for the state. Once the board gets past the implementation stage, it will free up resources to fight other problems, said Hume.

I-502 is silent on medical marijuana, and there have been no changes currently to medical marijuana laws. Ciaran Wilburn, owner of local medical marijuana dispensary, The Healing Center, said legalization of marijuana is a step in the right direction. Although he holds reservations about the implementation process.

Wilburn believes that there could end up being marijuana super powers similar to other industries, rather than small local growers like there are in the medical community. He said it is possible for there to be less diversity in the marijuana crops grown with commercialism taking over the industry.

According to Wilburn, there are already many families that survive solely on the marijuana industry. These families could be put out of house and home by large producers, he said.