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Washington became one of the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational use in 2012. But there are a lot of challenges ahead: the state must set up a licensing system for marijuana growers and sellers, the federal government may mount a challenge, the need to set a new limit on amount of marijuana in the bloodstream for safe driving. And medical marijuana is still in the picture.Over the next several months we will be exploring the issue and tracking the impact of I-502.

Wash. Bars That Allow Marijuana Use Could Face Penalties

Pot possession is now legal in Washington.  But city and state regulators are drawing the line at marijuana use in bars and coffee shops.

Initiative 502 allows people to possess marijuana for recreational use in Washington state. But state law still bans marijuana use in public. It’s considered a civil infraction punishable by a $103 fine. There are no specific penalties, however, for business owners who promote marijuana use by their customers.

Now the Washington State Liquor Control Board – which has oversight of marijuana as well --  plans to change that.

Press reports have described at least two bars, Stonegate in Tacoma and Frankie’s in Olympia, that have established clubs for marijuana use since I-502 passed. Washington regulators clearly want to crack down on those efforts. They say they want to emphasize that public consumption of marijuana is still illegal. They’re also worried that allowing people to mix alcohol and marijuana could result in more “over service” and impaired driving. The agency expects to draft rules in May, hold a public hearing in June and implement new rules for bar owners by August. 

Inspectors with Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development also recently turned down a request to open a marijuana dispensary combined with a “cannabis-friendly coffee shop” in Belltown. DPD inspectors said there needed to be better delineation between the coffee shop and the adjacent marijuana dispensary.

While there are numerous medical marijuana dispensaries in Seattle, a spokeswoman with the Seattle City Attorney’s office says they aren’t aware of any Seattle bars or businesses currently allowing marijuana use on-site. If there were, she says the state’s Liquor Control Board would be the entity to regulate them. 

Year started with KUOW: 2005