Steep tax difference between recreational, medical pot a worry

Washington received national attention last fall when voters approved an initiative to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana for adults.

Now officials are deciding how this new industry will be regulated.

At a public hearing on this Tuesday in Everett, some people asked how the state could have one system for medical marijuana and another system — with separate rules — for recreational marijuana.

And with recreational marijuana being taxed — and medical marijuana not — it could mean a steep difference in prices.

The new statewide system is expected to begin next year, legalizing recreational pot sales to adults. It will tax marijuana when it’s harvested, shipped to distributors and sold at state-licensed stores.

The concern is the taxes could make it more expensive than marijuana sold in medical dispensaries or in illegal street sales.

“You’ll compete against them,” said Shawn Scoleri, general manager of Canna RX, a medical marijuana dispensary in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood.

Sharon Foster heads the state’s Liquor Control Board, which is overseeing the enforcement of the state’s marijuana legalization. During Tuesday’s meeting, she acknowledged that it’s an issue that keeps getting raised as the state moves closer to legalization.

The Liquor Control Board is working with two other state agencies, the departments of health and revenue, to try to come up with recommendations to the Legislature on how to resolve the taxing issue, she said.

The hearing at a conference room at Comcast Arena on Tuesday is the first of five around the state to discuss the proposed rules. The state is scheduled in six weeks to begin accepting applications to grow, distribute or sell marijuana. Many questions remain to be resolved, as many of two dozen people who spoke at Tuesday’s hearing were eager to point out.

There were questions over how to find insurance, how marijuana entrepreneurs could legally bank their money, and what actions the federal government, with laws on the books making marijuana illegal, might take to legally challenge the state’s marijuana law.

“Anything we would say about federal law would be speculation,” Foster said, noting that the board is simply charged with implementing the new state law.

“There is a problem not having a clearer signal from the feds,” said Chris Marr, a member of the liquor control board.

Loren Simmonds, mayor pro-tem of Lynnwood, wondered if the city has to provide a license to operate a marijuana business if it didn’t meet the requirement to be at least 1,000 feet from schools and parks. Foster told him no.

Gloria Rivera, a Lynn-wood planner, wondered if the city could prohibit marijuana business entirely.

Liquor board staff, recalling terminology used during Prohibition, said that the state initiative does not allow for “dry” areas, but the city can regulate marijuana through its zoning.

Jason Bess, from Lynn-wood, said he came to Tuesday’s hearing to get more information on the production, processing and licensing of marijuana businesses. He said he plans to start a business growing the crop.

“This is a new era for the country,” he said. “In five years, every single state will have marijuana.”

Matt Barron, from Everett, said that the state will decide how many marijuana licenses to approve, and who gets them.

“This is like a lottery,” he said. “Who’s lucky enough to get a license? I want to be prepared.”

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; salyer@heraldnet.com.

More in Local News

Man arrested after police find van full of drugs, cash and guns

An officer on patrol noticed a vehicle by itself in the middle of a WinCo parking lot at 2 a.m.

Bolshevik replaces BS in Eyman’s voters pamphlet statement

The initiative promoter also lost a bid to include a hyperlink to online coverage of the battle.

After work to address issues, Lynnwood gets clean audit

The city has benefited from increased revenues from sales tax.

Man with shotgun confronts man on toilet about missing phone

Police say the victim was doing his business when the suspect barged in and threatened him.

Detectives seek suspect in woman’s homicide

Alisha Michelle Canales-McGuire was shot to death Wednesday at a home south of Paine Field.

Car crashes near Everett after State Patrol pursuit

The driver and a second person in the car suffered injuries.

Smith Island habitat restoration cost to rise $1.2 million

The project is intended to increase survival rates for juvenile chinook salmon.

A customer walks away after buying a hot dog from a vendor on 33rd St and Smith Street near the Everett Station on Friday. The Everett Station District Alliance pictures the area east of Broadway and south of Hewitt Avenue as a future neighborhood and transit hub that could absorb expected population growth. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
How can Everett Station become a vibrant part of city?

A neighborhood alliance focused on long-term revitalization will update the public Tuesday.

Jim Mathis, the Vietnam veteran whose Marysville garden was recently featured in The Herald, died Wednesday. Mathis, who suffered from PTSD and cancer, found solace in his beautiful garden. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Vietnam veteran Jim Mathis found peace in his garden

The Marysville man who served two tours died Wednesday after suffering from cancer and PTSD.

Most Read