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Colorado, Washington Look To Each Other On Legal Marijuana

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CBS4's Rick Sallinger looks on as a man smokes marijuana in Washington (credit: CBS)

CBS4’s Rick Sallinger looks on as a man smokes marijuana in Washington (credit: CBS)

4 On Your Side Investigator Rick Sallinger
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SEATTLE (CBS4) – Unless the federal government steps in, Colorado will soon have a regulated industry for recreational marijuana.

Like Colorado, Washington state also passed a voters’ initiative to legalize marijuana with 55 percent of the vote. Now both states are looking to each other to try to implement the will of the voters.

When CBS4 traveled to Seattle, it was easy to spot people openly smoking marijuana near tourist destinations like the Pike Place Fish Market. Like Colorado, police have pretty much stopped busting those with less than ounce.

A fishmonger named Justin Hall explained that officially people aren’t supposed to smoke marijuana in public. But Hall said, “It doesn’t stop anybody that much right now.”

Washington enacted its legalization four days ahead of Colorado. Washington also had medical marijuana before Colorado.

In Seattle, CBS4 visited a nonprofit farmers’ market called the Northwest Cannabis Market. The market was filled with vendors selling medical marijuana and even has a marijuana smoking room, similar to a wine tasting room at a winery.

“Colorado is an example for us. We learn everything there,” NW Cannabis Market owner Michael Keysor said.

In Washington, medical marijuana isn’t as big or well-regulated as medical marijuana is in Colorado. Signs for dispensaries are hard to miss in some Colorado neighborhoods. Many dispensaries in Washington don’t even have signs. A dispensary owner in Seattle says she believes the new for-profit industry will mean the end to medical marijuana dispensaries altogether.

Another difference between Washington and Colorado are the economic models for legalization. While Colorado has designated money for legalized pot for education, Washington expects billions primarily for health care.

Washington’s marijuana revenue will also go to education, research and substance abuse prevention. The intent of the new law is designed to take marijuana out of the hands of illegal drug organizations and bring it under a tightly regulated system like alcohol.

Washington has already set a limit for driving under intoxication. A driver’s blood should not have more than a THC concentration of 5.00 nanograms per milliliter. Colorado is still grappling with the issue. That’s a matter of interest at Frankie’s Sports Bar in Olympia where people can buy a beer and smoke marijuana. Frankie Schnarr owns what could be the first of many marijuana bars in Washington.

“I don’t mind a guy coming up here, toking a pipe or cigarette. But I don’t want a big bong over there and 15 guys getting stoned,” Schnarr said.

With bars and markets already catering to the marijuana user, some people in Washington hope the state will position itself as a tourist destination for cannabis connoisseurs.

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