Thursday, September 19, 2013

Judiciary Committee Hearing: Sheriff Urquhart's comments

King County Sheriff John Urquhart represented Washington during a United States Senate Judiciary Committee hearing about the conflicts between state and federal marijuana laws earlier this month.  The webcast of the hearing may be viewed via the hearing webpage.

Toward the end of the hearing (at about 2:08), Sheriff Urquhart answered questions about issues related to minors.  He stated that he thinks there are a lot of "urban myths floating around out there" including that thousands of people consumed marijuana in public during Hempfest, that "Seattle is going to turn into the Starbucks of marijuana", and that there will be "gummy bears infused with marijuana."  He said, "That's just not going to happen."

Marijuana-infused gummy bears
Right now, medical marijuana retailers are selling marijuana-infused gummy candies and other products that are attractive to youth.  As the Liquor Control Board rules stand right now, they will also be sold by recreational marijuana retailers.  The rules include regulations about marijuana packaging, but they do not include regulations about what the product inside the packaging looks like.

Public smoking at Hempfest
While 50,000 people may or may not have publicly used marijuana at this year's Hempfest, just Google Images "Seattle Hempfest 2013" and you can view a slew of photos of people, including those who look like minors, using marijuana in view of the public.

The Seattle Police Department has yet to change their policy of not enforcing the public consumption law and the Seattle City Council has yet to take any action on two ordinances that would prohibit public marijuana consumption, in compliance with I-502.

The Starbucks of marijuana?
In terms of number of legal retail outlets, Seattle will not turn into the Starbucks of marijuana.  Seattle is slated to have 21 recreational marijuana stores and that pales in comparison to the more than 400 Starbucks cafe's some websites say are in Seattle.  However,  Seattle is home to 273 medical marijuana businesses, 241 of which have a City business license, according to the Seattle Department of Finance and Administrative Services. 

While not suggesting that Seattle be home to hundreds of marijuana shops, the Seattle City Attorney does suggest that the City wants to promote itself as a mecca for marijuana users.  In his June letter to the Liquor Control Board, he states:
"People travel to Washington for many reasons, and tourism is a significant industry within Seattle and throughout the state.  We want tourists to enjoy our beautiful outdoors, fresh produce, microbrews, fine wines, professional sports and entertainment.  We should similarly embrace marijuana tourism."   

" . . . tourists should not be forced to use marijuana in parks or on sidewalks.  We recommend that the Board study private clubs or similar accommodations and propose appropriate rules governing their establishment and regulation."

No comments:

Post a Comment