Guest Opinions

Legal marijuana: Are we going to pot?

Legal marijuana will be the topic at the April 18 Columbia Basin Badger Club meeting.
Legal marijuana will be the topic at the April 18 Columbia Basin Badger Club meeting. TNS

We’re coming up on the five-year anniversary of legal recreational cannabis sales in Washington State, July 8, 2014.

We’ve learned a lot about how to regulate the industry, how much customers are willing to spend, what tax revenue it would bring to state and local governments, how many jobs it would add, and how to grow, process and package a variety of products. Washington is the second of 10 states to approve legal recreational sales to people 21 and older.

Are you a customer? Many of us must be. According to 502data.com, consumers have spent $4.2 billion on legal cannabis in Washington. The state has collected $742 million in marijuana tax revenue (37 percent excise tax) and $378 million in sales tax revenue.

It would be easy to think all the cannabis users live in western Washington, and simply by population, that’s true. But drill down on the numbers for Benton County and you see legal cannabis is popular statewide. Customers have purchased more than $73 million of product generating $8.7 million in tax revenue from Benton County alone. In fact, the Number 2 top selling retailer in the state is in Finley, Green to Go. There are currently four retail stores in Benton County and 58 processors/producers.

This is a complex topic with many angles. The Columbia Basin Badger Club has decided to focus discussion at its April 18th forum on the premise that Washington will not return to prohibition of marijuana.

The latest nationwide polls indicate a growing percentage of citizens now want nationwide legalization. Across the country, support is now 62 percent, up from 31 percent in 2000. So, if we assume cannabis will remain legal, what is the impact to our community and where should we focus our efforts to reduce harm?

We will explore issues like teen access to marijuana, buzzed driving, or black-market production. What are we doing now or should be doing in the future, to reduce negative impacts to our community?

We’ve invited three local speakers to share their knowledge and expertise on this subject.

Vanessa McCollum is a public health educator with Benton-Franklin Health District. She currently works in the Tobacco and Vapor Product Prevention and Control Program and Youth Marijuana Prevention and Education Program. Vanessa will share results of the latest Healthy Youth Survey for Washington State.

Taunya Harris is the general manager of Altitudes (Prosser Pot Store). Taunya has 5 years’ experience in the cannabis industry. She started as a budtender and is now the General Manager of Altitude in Prosser. She is one of the first female GMs in the industry.

Lieutenant Erik Magnuson is a 21-year veteran with the Benton County Sheriff’s Office. In 2018 he helped develop the plan to incorporate and educate Benton County residents on the laws and county codes governing medical marijuana grows.

To take our short survey on the topic, go to the Badger Club website at cbbc.clubexpress.com and click on Surveys in the menu tab. Then click on Public Marijuana Questionnaire and answer the questions. We’ll share results during the April 18 forum.

If you go

When: 11:30 a.m., Thursday, April 18

Where: Shilo Inn, 50 Comstock St., Richland

Cost: $20 for Badger Club members, $25 for nonmembers. Registration is required.

RSVP: Call 628-6011 or go to cbbc.clubexpress.com

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