Have you ever wondered why there aren’t any recreational marijuana stores in the areas where you would expect them? Capitol Hill, the University District, and Pioneer Square, 3 areas where adults who are looking to buy recreational pot live, work and play, lack an easily accessible retail store where they can legally purchase the product the citizens of Washington fought so hard to gain access to. Instead you find them clustered in the outskirts, almost random locations such as SODO or Northgate. The answer is as simple as it is silly – the 1,000 foot rule.
The 1,000 foot rule is an important part of I-502 and probably has one of the largest effects on where recreational pot stores are allowed to open. The rule states that a store selling marijuana cannot be located within 1,000 feet of any area that children would frequent – and that list includes “any elementary or secondary school, playground, recreation center or facility, child care center, public park, public transit center, library, or game arcade that allows minors to enter,” according to the guidelines posted on the Washington State Liquor Control Board’s website. As a result of how extensive this list is, more populated areas, which are filled with these sorts of facilities, end up with crisscrossing zones where it is illegal to open a recreational store, and so the stores that do end up opening are in areas without this sort of infrastructure, such as the heart of SODO.
Obviously, the rule is intended to make sure that children are kept away from a product that society has historically deemed dangerous and addictive, and no one involved in the recreational marijuana industry has any intention of helping to create an environment where children are in danger. However, this rule is far too restrictive and is quite honestly so poorly thought through that it could easily in fact have the opposite effect.
Retail recreational marijuana stores are run by professionals in the cannabis industry who have taken the utmost care to train their staff and have every interest in making sure that they do not under any circumstance provide marijuana to a minor. They are closely monitored by the State Liquor Control Board and the lack of any major incidents involving minors and recreational marijuana stores is a testament to this relationship. As long as the average, typically law-abiding resident of Seattle lacks convenient access to legal marijuana the black market will continue to flourish. Do you think the guy pushing weed on the Ave is checking IDs? Obviously not. By not allowing these stores to open in the areas where people need them, this restriction is helping the black market to flourish and continue to supply Seattle minors with marijuana.
That isn’t the only reason why this rule is a dumb idea. Seattle and Washington State have taken a great stride forward with the legalization of marijuana and we should see that progress through. One day, weed tourism could turn Seattle into a true destination for marijuana enthusiasts across the country and maybe even the globe – but that won’t happen if a tourist has to take a bus deep into Lake City to find bud.