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Washington: GOP Chairwoman Claims Increase in Black Market Since Legalization

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In an interview with Roll Call, House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers expressed her opinion on a variety of topics – one being marijuana legalization in WA State.

The Chairwoman’s home state, Washington, legalized marijuana for adult consumption in 2012. The interviewer, Melinda Henneberger, asked Chairwoman McMorris Rodgers how recreational marijuana legalization has changed life in WA State and if she felt [the legalization of pot]was related at all to the heroin epidemic. McMorris Rodgers touches on a few sensitive topics in her response. First, she claims that the legalization of recreational marijuana has certainly led to a “concern about the underground economy, and um, activity, that is related to marijuana in Washington State.” Essentially, she’s saying that legal weed has increased black market sales.

But let’s back-up and look at how Washington legalized pot for adult consumption. The initiative passed in November of 2012 which made the possession and consumption of weed legal for anyone over 21…yet, there was nowhere to buy said ‘legal weed’. The first recreational store opened in July of 2014. So for 20 whole months, the herb was legal to carry, legal to smoke (in the privacy of your own home), but illegal to buy anywhere! I’m not exactly sure what legislators were expecting, but it’s pretty apparent they actually created the need for a black market.

You can’t just legalize pot and assume people are going to wait patiently until you figure out the structure. That’s like giving a kid an awesome Christmas present they’ve been waiting years for and then saying – “Oh, but you actually can’t use it for a year and a half, sorry!” Of course, people who have never gone to the black market before are suddenly going to turn to their friends and ask who has the herbal connect.

Not to mention, in 2012 there were more medical shops open in Seattle than Starbucks. There wasn’t a lack of product! There was a lack of safe access to product for adults that didn’t have their medical card. So, of course, anyone over 21 who was excited about weed being legal had nowhere else to go besides the black market.