Amid ‘Gold Rush’ To Legal Pot Sales, Many Questions Remain

WASHINGTON: Calling it a “gold rush mentality,” Washington state’s top marijuana consultant predicts that thousands of people will apply for licenses to sell and produce the drug for recreational use as the state prepares to open 334 pot stores by June 1, 2014.

All the privately run retail outlets will be in clear violation of the federal law that bans marijuana, but that’s expected to do little to slow the number of applicants.

“There will be a ton. . And I think a lot of people are going to get badly burned because they’re not going to succeed in business. There’s going to be a lot of competition,” said consultant Mark Kleiman, who’s also a professor of public policy at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The state intends to begin accepting applications Nov. 18, after the Justice Department urged federal prosecutors last week to ignore the illegal activity in Washington state and Colorado, the first two states to legalize marijuana for all adults.

On Wednesday, the Washington State Liquor Control Board followed up by issuing revised rules for its pioneering marijuana system. While the board capped the number of stores at 334, including 21 in Seattle and eight in Tacoma, there’ll be no limit on the number of producers and processors, said Brian Smith, a spokesman for the board.

As excitement builds in the industry, key questions remain unresolved, however. Among them:

Will the feds now go further and allow marijuana shops to accept credit cards, make deposits at banks and use armored trucks to haul their cash?

And what price will the U.S. pay if it’s found in violation of international treaties aimed at cracking down on drug trafficking?

“This presents a lot of problems for U.S. diplomats abroad negotiating drug policy,” said Kevin Sabet, a legalization opponent who served as an adviser on drug issues to President Barack Obama and former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

As Congress prepares to end its five-week summer break next week, the Senate Judiciary Committee is ready to search for answers on how to best govern one of the nation’s hottest new industries.


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