The state Liquor Control Board voted this morning to start making rules aimed at stopping the consumption of marijuana in bars.
“It is important that the Board clarify now that consuming marijuana in a state liquor-licensed establishment is not acceptable,” said Board Chair Sharon Foster. “Public consumption of marijuana is clearly illegal under Washington’s new law.”
The issue became a concern for the board and Gov. Jay Inslee after an Associated Press story about two venues, Frankie’s in Olympia and Stonegate in Tacoma, letting patrons use pot within their walls. Inslee is concerned about the proliferation of pot bars.
Voters legalized recreational pot through Initiative 502. But I-502 prohibits public consumption, specifically in public view.
The board also is concerned that mixing alcohol and marijuana in liquor-licensed locations could cause increased impaired driving.
Under the rule-making process the board now begins taking public comment on its proposal. It will file draft rules in late May, hold a public hearing on the draft rules in late June, and the vote to accept or reject rules in early July. Details for providing public comment are on the Laws and Rules section of the WSLCB website.
Frankie’s and Stonegate are trying to avoid obvious violations. They’re getting around the ban on public use by turning parts of their bars into private clubs for pot users. And Stonegate is circumventing the state indoor smoking ban by having customers vaporize their pot, which doesn’t create smoke.
As it stands, if patrons are ingesting their own personal pot the only enforcement action the liquor board can take under the new state law is to issue civil infractions, with $103 fines against customers for public use.
The new rules would hope to prohibit liquor licensees from allowing such behavior, so liquor board enforcement officers wouldn’t have to write tickets to individual consumers.
The owner of Frankie’s said last week he has no intention of changing his bar’s policy. His pot patrons are well-behaved, he said, and most are medical-marijuana patients.
“What the hell is the difference,” said Frankie Schnarrs, “if somebody smokes in the parking lot or inside?”