Proposal for new restrictions on pot shops questioned
OLYMPIA – Licensed marijuana businesses could face new restrictions on where they can operate, under one of the first bills to get a hearing in the 2019 Legislature.
But opponents told the House Commerce and Gaming Committee on Tuesday the plan to ban stores and other marijuana businesses within 1,000 feet of a school bus stop, playground or child-care facility would be expensive and hard to enforce.
Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, made an impassioned plea for more restrictions on marijuana businesses based on his work as a school public safety officer and a Drug Abuse Resistance Education instructor.
“I teach kids about the dangerous effects of marijuana,” Klippert said, adding he believes some marijuana shops are “way too close” to places where children congregate.
Klippert’s passion didn’t keep legislators and others from raising concerns about his proposal.
If he’s going to restrict legal sales of marijuana, should the bill be amended to include places that sell alcohol and cigarettes, he was asked. Klippert said he’d rather not have an omnibus bill.
Should the bill be amended so that marijuana operations that are licensed and currently operating are grandfathered in so they’re not put out of business and their employees put out of work? “I would love to discuss that,” he said.
Chris Thompson of the state Liquor and Cannabis Board, which licenses marijuana businesses, said the bill could cost the state an estimated $2.6 million in extra labor, management and information technology costs for enforcement, and even with that it would be difficult. There’s no list of all the playgrounds and unlicensed child-care operations in the state, and the schools change their bus stops from year to year, he said.
Plus licensed businesses forced to close under new rules would likely sue, and defending the state against those claims could cost millions, Thompson estimated.
The committee will decide in the coming weeks whether to propose changes to the bill before it votes or whether to pass it to the full House.