« Return to this article

for people who care about the West

Marijuana in Washington: The long road to legalization

Over a year later, officials are navigating thorny legal issues from taxes to licensure.


The day marijuana was legalized in Washington was a jubilant one in the progressive state. But the post-legalization world, although more straightforward in some ways that the pre-legalization world, remains murky. More than a year after recreational use of pot got the official go-ahead, city and state officials in Washington are still navigating thorny legal issues from taxation to licensure. For example, many of the medical marijuana providers have been thrown into a state of limbo when licensing laws changed this spring. The medical marijuana industry at the start was largely unregulated; now, they’ll have to navigate tight licensing law and compete with the booming recreational market. One expert told Seattle-area radio station KUOW that the new law could actually result in more medical dispensaries closing down than in new ones opening up. And state and local officials have been mired in questions of how to tax the industry and where to put the stores.

Still, other states have begun to follow in Washington’s footsteps. Both Oregon and Alaska legalized pot this year and other states have expanded their medical markets. Lobbying from the marijuana industry could push more politicians towards legalization.  -Kate Schimel