Marijuana could bring $51 million to 2015-17 general fund

By | February 19, 2014 | 0 Comments

State officials estimated that legalized recreational marijuana could bring in $51 million to the state’s general fund in the 2015-17 biennium.

It’s the first time that the state has included marijuana in its revenue projections, since Initiative 502 passed in 2012, which legalized recreational marijuana, according to the Office of Financial Management.

The Economic and Revenue Forecast Council discussed the estimate, and projections for the next six years at meetings broadcast on TVW Wednesday.

The forecast for the remainder of the 2013-15 biennium showed general fund revenue coming in $30 million higher than in the November forecast, according to the Office of Financial Management. The general fund revenue over this biennium is expected to be $33 billion.

The state’s general fund collections in the following biennium, 2015-17, are projected to be $35.7 billion, an increase of $82 million over the November projection and including the $51 million expected in marijuana taxes.

The rest of that increased forecast was due to slowly growing economy, said Steve Lerch, chief economist of the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council.

Lerch told lawmakers Wednesday that council staff has been reluctant before this forecast to include marijuana tax revenues in general fund projections because of uncertainties about the retail stores, including when the the stores would launch and the potential for marijuana businesses to have problems with banks.

The projection includes an assumption that marijuana retail stores would not start until June 2015, Lerch said. Initiative 502 earmarks other revenue from marijuana, such as licensing revenue, to a dedicated marijuana fund, which pays for social and health services and research, he said.

According to OFM, the next revenue forecast is scheduled for release June 18.

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Hemp farming would be legalized under legislation

By | January 30, 2014 | 0 Comments

Washington became a marijuana-friendly state when voters approved Initiative 502 legalizing marijuana. Now, the legislature is talking about making hemp farming legal as well.

Joy Maher shows off her hemp collection at the TVW office.

Two bills were discussed Thursday at the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee that seek to create a licensing system for hemp growers governed by the Dept. of Agriculture.

While Senate Bill 6214 and Senate Bill 5964 are very similar, the first bill requires Washington State University to conduct a study of the net worth of industrial hemp production before licensing the crop. The cost of the study is estimated to be about $850,000.

Supporters of the hemp bill said that the crop is beneficial from an environmental and financial standpoint. The prime sponsor of Senate Bill 6214, Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, said that it uses minimal pesticides and helps with erosion control.

She added that it is expected to cause an “explosive” boost in our state’s economy, citing that the U.S. imported $11.5 million worth of hemp products in 2011.

Committee members raised concerns that marijuana could be concealed in hemp fields.

Aimee Warner, the founder of a cannabis beauty line, brought her "hemp" briefcase to the hearing.

However, testifiers in favor of hemp legalization assured that the plants do not only look different – marijuana is thick and bushy and hemp is tall and thin – but cross pollination would also significantly reduce the potency of the plant.

Joy Beckerman Maher, a longtime industrial hemp consultant, who has been pushing for legalization for decades addressed the myth that hemp can give someone a “high.”

“The only feeling you would get is an awful headache,” said Maher.

Hemp is used to make everything from clothing and beauty products to seed oil and ice cream. The U.S. Declaration of Independence was even written on hemp paper.

On a national scale, the Farm Bill recently allowed hemp cultivation projects to be launched for research and state agriculture department in 10 states that have approved hemp production. These include California, Colorado, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia.

No action was taken at the hearing. The Impact will air a special segment about the issue Wednesday.

Gov. Gregoire meets with feds about Washington’s marijuana legalization law

By | November 13, 2012 | 0 Comments

Gov. Chris Gregoire met with Deputy Attorney General James Cole in Washington, D.C. today to discuss the state’s new marijuana legalization law.

Gregoire’s office said the state intends to move ahead with implementation of Initiative 502, which legalizes, taxes and regulates marijuana.

Voters approved the initiative with 55 percent of the vote. Starting on Dec. 6th, it will be legal for adults over 21 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, but the legal framework to sell marijuana in retail stores won’t be in place for at least a year.

Gregoire asked the Department of Justice to clarify their position on marijuana.

The Associated Press reports that federal officials have not yet made a decision on the issue. Gregoire told officials she wants to know soon if they plan to block the new law before the state begins spending money to implement it.

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Week 5: Let’s Review

By | February 10, 2012 | 0 Comments

Here’s a look at what we covered this week on the blog and on our daily show, Legislative Review. It airs nightly at 6:30 & 11 p.m. on TVW.

Monday: The House Judiciary committee voted 7-5 to pass the Senate’s version of the same-sex marriage bill. It was the final public hearing on the issue, and more than a dozen supporters and opponents testified. And on the show, we took a look at budget-writing committees that were racing to get bills done before cutoff.

Watch Monday’s edition of Legislative Review.

Tuesday: Senators Derek Kilmer and Jim Kastama held a press conference to give an update on their legislative priorities, citing a number of bills that survived Tuesday’s cutoff deadline. And the House heard a bill that would add certification and taxing requirements to roll-your-own cigarettes machines.

Watch Tuesday’s edition of Legislative Review.

Wednesday: Following more than two hours of debate, the House of Representatives voted to pass a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, 55-43. Check out our photo gallery of the event, and more details of the debate on Wednesday’s show.

Watch Wednesday’s edition of Legislative Review.

Thursday: A joint House and Senate committee held a work session Thursday on Initiative 502, which would license, regulate and tax marijuana sales in Washington state. Following the hearing, the Yes on I-502 campaign held a press conference discussing their approach to the November election. The Senate passed a bill Thursday evening that allows families to stop an autopsy if they have a religious objection to the procedure. And House passed a bill  that extends advertising disclosure requirements to ballot measure campaigns.

Watch Thursday’s edition of Legislative Review.

Friday: Gov. Chris Gregoire and British Columbia’s premier announced an action plan that includes collaboration between the two governments to develop a regional jobs strategy in the green economy, coordinate transportation and energy efficiency. We have a wrap-up of the week’s headlines on Friday’s half-hour edition of Legislative Review at 6:30 p.m. tonight.

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Marijuana initiative heard in joint Senate and House committee

By | February 9, 2012 | 0 Comments

A joint House and Senate committee held a work session Thursday on Initiative 502, which would license, regulate and tax marijuana sales in Washington state. The initiative has collected enough signatures to go before voters in November, unless the Legislature enacts it first.

John McKay, a law professor and former U.S. Attorney, testified in favor of the initiative, saying Washington state needs a “new way to approach a failed policy.” The criminal enforcement of marijuana drives an “enormous flow of money to dangerous drug cartels, gangs and thugs,” said McKay, noting that billions of dollars worth of marijuana is trafficked down I-5 each year.

Retired FBI officer Charles Mandigo said drug dealers can still be arrested and prosecuted under the initiative. If marijuana is sold in stores and not by gangs, it would stem the violence associated with drug turf wars, he said.

Speaking in opposition, Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza said more than 17 million Americans smoke marijuana, and the initiative doesn’t consider the impact on children or their families. “It puts people in an altered state,” he said. “I respect their ability to make that decision as adults. But how are we going to regulate the effect of marijuana on the children around them?”

Snaza said he believes the projected revenue that the state would earn from selling marijuana is “overly inflated.”

Following the hearing, the Yes on I-502 campaign held a press conference discussing their approach to the November election. You can watch the full half-hour video here.

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Marijuana legalization initiative headed for Legislature

By | January 18, 2012 | 0 Comments

A measure that would legalize, tax and regulate marijuana in Washington state has enough certified signatures to go to the Legislature for consideration, Secretary of State Sam Reed announced today.

Initiative 502 would allow people over the age of 21 to buy marijuana at stores regulated by the state Liquor Control Board. People could buy up to an ounce at a time, and it would also set a new standard for driving while under the influence of marijuana. You can read the full text here.

Sponsors of the marijuana measure submitted 354,608 signatures — far more than what’s required for a statewide proposition. Lawmakers can pass the measure, or reject it and let it go to the November ballot for voters to decide.

Earlier today, the Senate heard a bill that aims to give cities and counties more control over how they can regulate medical marijuana.

Dickerson makes another push to legalize, tax marijuana

By | March 16, 2011 | 0 Comments

Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson is holding a press conference to talk about legalizing marijuana. She is joined by Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, political activists and other supporters.

Dickerson is sponsoring a bill to legalize, regulate and tax cannabis.

“In these trying times, $440 million in new revenue should definitely be of interest to the legislature,” she said, referring to the amount that she believes the state will make from taxing the sale of marijuana during the next budget cycle. She says the majority of the money collected would help fund social services, which are facing deep cuts.

“I approach the topic from a slightly different prospective,” said Seattle City Council-member Tim Burgess. He said that this bill would allow the country to discontinue mass incarceration of people facing cannabis charges.

Holmes said that the time has come to have a responsible conversation about regulating and taxing the substance.

Also present to speak in favor of Dickerson’s bill was Jodie Emery, whose husband is serving a 5-year sentence. She and her husband own a business that sells hemp-products.

Dickerson said that states need to step up and lead the charge to end the prohibition of marijuana.

“This is an attempt to try to help the legislators understand the revenue possibilities of this bill — they are very significant,” she said, when asked about her reasoning for holding a press conference when it appears that her bill is dead. A work session on the topic is scheduled for the House Ways and Means committee today at 3:30.

“Al Capone was no longer in the beer business when the prohibition went down,” said George Rohrbacher, a former state senator.

Holmes said that prohibition has driven control of  marijuana into the black market. “We are certainly not advocating the use of it,” he said. Holmes said legalizing marijuana is a civil liberties and economic issue.

“Alcohol is legal. Alcohol is taxed,” said a representative of the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Those selling moonshine represent less than 1 percent of the market, he said. When the government comes in and taxes, he said, they gain control of the substance.

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The marijuana legalization debate isn’t over … and other things I learned on cutoff day

By | March 8, 2011 | 0 Comments

MidsessionStillMarijuana legalization is a much sexier headline than something about the the state’s budget process as lawmakers move toward sine die.  So, I’ll get to pot talk later in this post.  But yesterday was policy cutoff for the legislature, and The Impact crew was set up  between House and Senate chambers for the entire day, conducting 27 interviews with the governor and key lawmakers on the budget, education, health care, jobs, and yes – marijuana. Here are some of my takeaways:

Look for the budget chairs to roll out their proposals on March 21 or 22 - the Monday or Tuesday after the March 17th revenue forecast. Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, said he’s expecting a $500 million to $1.5 billion drop in revenue projections and has some contingency plans ready to go.  He also said the budget proposal will include plans to close the shortfall for the budget ending in June, as well as the next two-year budget cycle.

The governor’s budget director, Marty Brown, has both state and federal budget cuts on his mind.  He’s watching for $200 million to $700 million in federal cuts that would mostly impact social services. Brown said “it’s really hard to tell when they’re sort of passing things in two week increments right now.”  Congress has until October to finalize their budget proposals. (more…)

Tuesday Q&A: Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson on child prostitution, marijuana and more

By | February 15, 2011 | 0 Comments

The Q&A this week is with Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, who stepped away from a Ways and Means Committee meeting to speak with me about some of her bills, including one to allow police to tape conversations between pimps and child prostitutes.

Q: How did the bill to allow taped conversations come about?

Dickerson: It came about when one of the advocates who works on the issue of trafficking came to me and she knew about my history of working on issues involving children who’ve been prostituted and she asked me to do this bill. There’s a companion bill in the Senate as well.

Q: What would the bill do?

Dickerson: The bill would allow taped conversations of the child and the suspected pimp. And one of the things that we were looking at was, hmm, do we need to add language in there that would let the child know that there’s some risk involved in doing this? We don’t have a victim witness program in Washington state. The federal government does, but the state doesn’t. So unless these were cases in federal court, the child couldn’t count on any kind of victim witness program. They certainly could count on confidentiality but we thought it was important to make sure that the child knows that there’s some risk. So I’ve been working with Rep. Ladenburg on an amendment.

Q: What would the amendment do?

Dickerson:It has a provision inserted that would explain the fact that there are risks.

I’m in favor of adding a bit more language to safeguard – to make sure that the child knows what they’re getting into in terms of the taping, because there are risks involved. It appears that in a case that was highlighted in the press just about a month ago, a young woman who testified against her pimp suddenly disappeared and hasn’t been heard of. So I think that we do need to be careful.

Q: What do you say to those – like the ACLU – that have civil liberty concerns about taping phone conversations without consent?

Dickerson: I don’t think there should be a big concern there. There is review by judges and if we find that police are abusing this authority we can always make more stringent requirements.

Q: Tell me more about the magnitude of the problem in Washington.Why is this bill needed?

Dickerson: There seems to be a real epidemic of children being prostituted in Washington state. We’re in the very sad state of affairs. There was a study that was done recently that identified over 500 children who were involved in prostitution in King County. (more…)

‘We grew up with cannabis. We have to grow up about it now,’ Goodman says

By | February 8, 2011 | 1 Comments

The House Public Safety Committee is just starting a hearing on a bill to sell marijuana in liquor stores. You can watch live right here.

The bill would license cannabis farmers, create a 15 percent  tax on the sale of marijuana, allow adults 21 and over to use marijuana and would allow marijuana gardening.

Rep. Chris Hurst began the hearing by noting that last year’s hearing on marijuana was packed. This year, he said, they reserved a larger hearing room — and he said he’s surprised that there aren’t many people there to testify.

Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson says people might wonder why a 64-year-old grandmother would want to legalize marijuana. “I’ve come to this position not because I use cannabis myself,” she said, but because of the harm she’s seen from prohibition. That includes people who’ve been caught with marijuana who will have a criminal record for life. “It’s harmful in terms of the huge waste that it causes to the General Fund of Washington,” she said. The amount: She says $25 million is spent per year on jailing people who use marijuana.

On the other hand, legalizing and taxing marijuana would net $400 million per budget cycle, she said. She said her bill also legalizes the production of hemp, “which would provide an enormous economic opportunity.”

Rep. Roger Goodman, also a sponsor, said prohibition never works. He said prohibition doesn’t address demand — it drives the market underground, where it’s more dangerous.

“We grew up with cannabis. We have to grow up about it now,” he said. “Prohibitions don’t work, regulation does.” (more…)

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Rep. Chris Hurst on marijuana bills: It’s just not going to happen.

By | January 21, 2010 | 0 Comments
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Thursday Q&A: Rep. DeBolt and Sen. Brown on marijuana, taxes, the budget and more

By | January 21, 2010 | 0 Comments

This week’s Q&A is with House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt and Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown. I’ve posted the interview in the order in which they were conducted, as usual, asked each the same broad questions, and included everything each lawmaker said. The conversations cover marijuana, public safety bills, taxes and job creation. And no interview would be complete without talking about the budget. Enjoy.

Rep. Richard DeBolt:

Q: There are currently bills to close state government for one day per month, limit state worker salaries and another in the House to make official about $50 million in cuts from Gov. Chris Gregoire’s budget. Which of those do you support, what other ideas do you have and what’s the timeline?

DeBolt: I guess the first thing that I would like to say about it is we saw some of these problems because we have a systematically flawed budget process. We have to change how we budget and what our priorities are.
I would break the budgeting process up: I would do an education only budget first. It’s our paramount duty, so we should fund it first. Then we can fund public safety and the vulnerable. Then, with whatever is left, you make the rest of your budget. So you protect the children and the most vulnerable.

Q: What about the furloughs?

DeBolt: As far as furloughs, we haven’t had a chance to explore the bills fully yet. The bills were introduced and the process probably broke down a little bit so we don’t have all the details yet.
From my perspective, we think everything should be on the table. We need to make sure that what we’re doing to balance the budget is real – not just delaying costs until later.

Q: You mentioned an education-first budget. When I was covering the Oregon Legislature in 2005, the Republican House Speaker suggested a similar proposal to fund education first.

DeBolt: Oh yeah — and what happened?

Q: It didn’t pass, and they were in session for about eight months that year because the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate couldn’t agree on much. Why is that a controversial idea?

DeBolt: I remember that. We’ve been suggesting the education-budget first idea since 2002. We haven’t even gotten a hearing on it.

Q: Why do you think that is?

DeBolt: I think that Olympia is stuck in the past and has a tendency to be myopic in their viewpoints. So if its outside the box, it’s probably not going to be considered. We’re not a super change-oriented place.

Q: So would closing state government for one day a month be something you could support?

DeBolt: I don’t know because for some services, it could be problematic. For example, I want to get our permitting wait times down. Can they do the same amount of work if we’re furloughing people? That’s of interest to me. I don’t know how the functions of government would be changed. I don’t know if you can just arbitrarily close all the agencies and make it work. If it’s agencies that support our economy and help move us forward, we shouldn’t slow that down.

Q: One big policy issue has been public safety, in the wake of the police shootings last year. A Constitutional amendment is on the table — is that the right move? Is there danger in amending the Constitution so soon after these crimes? (more…)

Today: Decriminalizing pot, outlawing Joose and more

By | January 20, 2010 | 0 Comments

Here are a few highlights from today’s calendar:

- Right now, tune into floor session.

- At 1:30 p.m., the House Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Committee will decide whether to decriminalize or legalize marijuana. Last week, Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson told me she thought the bill to decriminalize marijuana had a good chance, but PubliCola and The Stranger report that the bill is dead. This will be live on TVW.

- Also at 1:30, the House Commerce Committee is considering a bill to outlaw beverages like “Joose” that combine alcohol and caffeine or other stimulants.

- At the same time, the Senate will Ways & Means Committee will hear an overview of the Capital Budget. That will play on TVW later.

- At 3:30, the Senate Higher Education Committee will discuss whether UW and other four-year universities should be able to set their own tuition. That’s live on TVW.

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Marijuana bill: Watched live on TVW all over the world

By | January 13, 2010 | 1 Comments

Right now, the bills to legalize marijuana are playing live on TVW and streaming on our web site. And about 1,000 people all over the world are watching.

Here’s a list of the countries of origin of people watching right now, courtesy of our web department:
Australia, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Germany, Estonia, France, Ireland, Japan, Korea and, of course, the U.S.

In fact, the number of people watching is about the same as the number who watched Gov. Chris Gregoire’s State of the State address yesterday.

Here’s a screen shot of the map. I will say it looks way more impressive in person, in the TVW web team’s control room.

mj

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Rep. Goodman: “One million students in the U.S. sell marijuana”

By | January 13, 2010 | 0 Comments

Rep. Roger Goodman, one of the prime sponsors of the bill to legalize marijuana, just testified.

“One million students in the U.S. sell marijuana,” he said, adding that it’s easier for students to get than beer. Goodman said legalizing marijuana would mean it’s regulated.

Goodman said he’s on law enforcement’s side on this one. “Law enforcement is not getting the respect that they deserve” because they’re faced with trying to enforce a law that is widely ignored, he said.

“We’ve already given up. We’ve given up control of this market to criminal enterprises,” he said. If lawmakers legalize it, they can regulate it and keep it away from children.

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Rep. Dickerson: “Legalization brings incredible fiscal benefits”

By | January 13, 2010 | 0 Comments

Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson is now testifying on the bill to legalize marijuana. She said she initially supported the bill because it would help address the state’s budget problems.

But she also thinks “over the last decade we have wasted scores of taxpayer dollars on investigation, court proceedings and incarceration,” with no significant decrease in marijuana use.

“Legalization brings incredible fiscal benefits,” she said. She said many criminals are behind bars for marijuana-related offenses, and the Liquor Control Board estimates the bill would bring in $300 million per biennium.

To that, the crowd clapped. Rep. Hurst, chairman of the committee, said told them that’s not acceptable behavior in committee.

“I liken our present policy to Prohibition,” she said, “without Prohibition, Al Capone would have faded away,” she said, comparing Capone to Mexican drug rings that import drugs.

“We have no good science that shows that,” she said, of the notion that marijuana is a “gateway drug.”

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Rep. Dave Upthegrove: Legalizing marijuana will “help keep communities safer”

By | January 13, 2010 | 1 Comments

“By the level of interest, I think that shows that it’s time to have a conversation,” Upthegrove said. He is the sponsor of HB 1177.

He said he’s driven by public safety, responsible spending of taxpayer dollars and family. “Any drug policy measure that moves us in the direction of help and support … to help those loved ones turn their lives around, not only their lives but the lives of their families, is a good thing.”

He said the conflict with federal law wouldn’t be an issue because state and federal laws don’t always have to overlap precisely. He also said he believes that marijuana can be addictive and dangerous, but that drug policy needs to be revamped in a way that addresses addiction and help.

“This bill not only will save money, it will help keep communities safer.”

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Marijuana bills: No vote today, but hearing starts soon

By | January 13, 2010 | 0 Comments

The House Public Safety Committee is now live on TVW. They’re discussing bills to legalize marijuana.

Rep. Chris Hurst said the bills were scheduled for executive session — meaning, they were on schedule to be voted on — but that the prime sponsors asked that a vote not happen today. So they’ll vote next Wednesday at the regularly scheduled meeting.

Tune in now to watch.

And here are the bills:
- HB 1177 would make marijuana possession a civil infraction for adults
- While HB 2401 would make marijuana legal. It would be sold in liquor stores. Marijuana farmers would be licensed under the Dept. of Agriculture.

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Should marijuana be decriminalized? State considers it.

By | February 10, 2009 | 0 Comments

Former lawmaker Toby Nixon just testified on a bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee to decriminalize the possession of marijuana — less than 40 grams, that is.

Here’s the bill. It would charge those under 18 with less than 40 grams with a misdemeanor. Those over 18 with less than 40 grams would face a civil infraction — like a parking ticket — and a fine of $100.

Nixon said, “The most dangerous thing about marijuana is getting arrested for it.” He told committee members that it’s less addictive than caffeine or alcohol.

Sen. Adam Kline said that, in his experience, marijuana is a gateway drug . “I used to grow my own dope, now I brew my own beer,” he said. He was kidding, but when Sen. Pam Roach asked for clarification of whether it was a gateway drug, he said, “It is.”

I’ll have more as I go over the video, which you can find here.

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