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Recreational puts medicinal under the spotlight in Washington

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Weed in Washington

On Monday, a work group in the state of Washington released recommendations on how medical marijuana should be regulated in the state. That's right: Medicinal cannabis is the issue.

The previous passage of Initiative 502 made it clear how recreational marijuana would work in the state, leaving its MMJ industry as the freewheeling black sheep, and one that federal prosecutors in Spokane and Seattle say needs to shape up if the state wants to avoid federal intervention, reports the Associated Press.

Additionally, an expected recommendation for any MMJ dispensaries currently operating to register under the new RMJ rules "might effectively close most Washington medical-marijuana dispensaries, which have proliferated ..." the AP writes. "The state Liquor Control Board, which is overseeing the implementation of I-502, has said it will issue 334 licenses for retail pot stores around the state, with 21 of them in Seattle — a city that has an estimated 200 medical-marijuana dispensaries. ...

"Another question is whether the state might create a system that exempts patients from paying taxes, or at least requires them to pay lower taxes, at recreational marijuana stores."

Speaking of, whereas Colorado requires a separate vote to approve additional taxes, via the coming Proposition AA, Washington's taxation was a package deal under I-502. In 2014, businesses in the legal marijuana market will face a 25 percent excise tax at each of three different stations of production: sales between growers and processors; between processors and retail shops; and between the retailer and the consumer.

If AA passes in Colorado next month, recreational retailers in the state would face a 15 percent excise tax, as well as a 10 percent sales tax that would likely be increased to 15 percent by the Legislature. These are in addition to the existing 2.9 percent state sales tax and any taxes added by the local municipality, like the one on the ballot in Manitou Springs.

Cannabis in California

Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union announced a new panel, fronted by California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, to possibly propose a ballot measure to legalize marijuana in California in 2016.

A good 65 percent of Californians are in support of legalization, according to a Tulchin Research poll released last week. The poll surveyed 1,200 residents and found the results showed a "solid majority" in support.

Newsom and his panel of 16 experts, including professors and medical researchers, reportedly will follow the practices of Colorado and Washington closely as they attempt to establish the best infrastructure for legalization in the Golden State.

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