Washington State Pushes Back Timeline For Legal Marijuana Distribution

In the months after the passage of Washington’s ballot initiative to legalize and regulate marijuana, the state was on track to implement its licensing scheme for distributors and suppliers by the end of this year. But the Liquor Control Board said Wednesday that it has pushed back its timeline, meaning legal marijuana likely won’t be available until Spring 2014, according to the Associated Press. The Board said it would aim to issue licenses to both growers and distributors in December 1, rather than issuing growers’ licenses over the summer so that they could produce a product for suppliers by the end of the year.

Although Colorado and Washington’s recreational marijuana laws have already lifted penalties for possession of less than an ounce of pot, production and distribution will not be legal until the states set up rules and regulations for licensing. Proponents of the state laws view the states as laboratories in which new alternatives to the failed War on Drugs can be explored. But the expected benefits, including revenue generation and a decrease in the violent illicit drug trade, will not begin to accrue until there are mechanisms for a legal distribution system.

During a congressional oversight hearing Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder once again dodged questions about how the Department of Justice will respond to the new state laws. He did say, however, that the Department of Justice is “certainly going to enforce federal law” and that the DOJ will consider laws’ the impacts on children as well as gang violence.