For safety, tweak law on marijuana transport

The U.S. Justice Department has now OK’d the regulated production and sale of marijuana in Washington, with eight particular points of concern:

•Preventing marijuana from going to minors

Preventing marijuana revenue from going to criminals

Preventing marijuana from going to states where it’s still illegal

Preventing marijuana sale from becoming a cover for selling other illegal drugs

Preventing violence, particularly gun violence from becoming part of sales

•Preventing marijuana from creating drugged driving, and other similar public risks

Preventing growing of pot on public lands, and mitigating environmental danger caused by pot growth on public lands

Preventing pot possession and use on federal property

Right now, we’re only meeting seven of these eight requirements. Where we are failing is “Preventing violence, particularly gun violence from becoming part of sales.”

As written, WAC 314-55-085(5)(a) states that “Only the marijuana licensee or an employee of the licensee may transport product.”

Without the ability to use the banking system, this means that on any given day, $3 million or more, in either product or cash, will be on the public roads going either to or from the licensed retailers. It seems unlikely that “a licensee or an employee” is going to be a security professional who is either trained or willing to put their lives on the line transporting tens of thousands of dollars in cash and products per trip. They’re going to be sitting ducks for all of the criminals out there, many of whom would shoot you for their next hit of meth.

This a perfect storm for the murder of both transportation drivers and innocent bystanders. Yet, the licensees are specifically prevented from hiring trained and licensed professionals for this dangerous ongoing job. This makes no more sense than having bank tellers transport cash between branches in their personal vehicles. The banks use professional licensed armored car services and marijuana professionals should at least have the right to do the same thing.

I spoke with someone from the Liquor Control Board about this very issue when they held their meeting in Everett on Aug. 6 and he acknowledged this high-risk fly in the ointment. But, he said that, under the law, the LCB cannot fix this issue, because this was the way that I-502 was written. A change in the name of public safety will take an act by the Olympia legislature, with a 67 percent approval.

The next legislative session in Olympia will begin on the second Monday in January, right around the same time that the WSLCB starts granting licenses to the new marijuana industry. To our worthy legislators: How about, just as a show of good faith with the voters, that you fix this problem on Day One?

The fix is easy: Specifically, change WAC 314-55-085(5)(a) from “Only the marijuana licensee or an employee of the licensee may transport product.” to “Only the marijuana licensee or an employee of the licensee or a Washington-licensed professional secure transport service may transport product.”

The whole world is watching. Let’s get this right, before some innocent person dies, not after.

Chris Newman lives in Everett.

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