Legislature approves new pot reform bill

By Steve Guntli

Governor Jay Inslee signed a recreational marijuana reform bill into law on June 30. The bill makes several changes in the state’s recreational marijuana laws that will simplify the tax and licensing processes.

The bill, House Bill 2136, passed through the House on June 26 by a vote of 59–38 and the Senate on June 27 by 36–7.

Perhaps the biggest change is the elimination of the three-tier tax structure that was implemented once sales commenced. The system imposed a 25 percent tax at each level of production and sale: producers, processors and retailers. That system is replaced by a single 37 percent excise tax at the point of sale at the retailer.

The reforms address complaints by retailers who pointed out that medical marijuana outlets were able to undercut regular retail prices as they paid little or no tax on their sales.

Now, both recreational and medical users would pay the 37 percent excise tax, which will help level the playing field for retailers and medical dispensaries. Medical users will be exempt from the tax if they are already in a registry created by regulatory legislation earlier this year.

The reforms also allow cities and counties to reduce the 1,000-foot buffer zone between marijuana retailers and certain restricted locations. Under the new laws, marijuana businesses can now be within 100 feet of childcare centers, arcades, libraries, public parks or transit centers. The 1,000-foot buffer will still be in place for schools. The measure would also ban marijuana drive-throughs, vending machines or clubs.

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