Moratorium is a hard word to pronounce, let alone define. But since Initiative 502 passed, it’s been on a lot of Washington politicians’ tongues. A moratorium is essentially a ban, one lasting as little as 60 days or as long as, well, forever. It’s a dirty word for ganjapreneurs like myself, as several Washington-state cities and counties have recently placed moratoriums on legal marijuana.
As of March 2014, 34 cities and 14 entire counties in Washington have voted to either put a hold on marijuana businesses in their within their boundaries or ban them entirely. More than a million citizens are going to be affected by those restrictions. And pot enthusiasts or not, all of those citizens have been rudely uninvited to one legendary party. Fear of the unknown is driving a lot of these moratoriums, and I think this fear is illogical Reefer Madness all over again.
The problem with city and county marijuana moratoriums is obvious. For one thing, the state as a whole will see drastically less tax revenue and, in its place, a more robust marijuana black market from city to affected city. But each moratorium is also a massive inconvenience to individual citizens. If pot is legal in the state of Washington but illegal in your hometown of Kent or Kennewick, what does that mean for you, the marijuana consumer who voted yes on 502? It means that in order to enjoy a 100% legal plant/product, you would have to drive out of your city or county to do so. And we’re not talking about a brief little Driving Miss Daisy type-situation; if the current moratorium regulations stay in place some WA citizens will have to to drive up to 100 miles out of their way to purchase legal cannabis.
Imagine if, in order to enjoy a single beer or glass of wine on Friday night, you had to drive 60 miles out of town.
Imagine if, in order to enjoy a single beer or glass of wine on Friday night, you had to drive 60 miles out of town. Imagine if you liked smoking cigars every now and again—except every time you wanted to puff one you had to drive an hour and a half out of your way, then another hour and a half back. After a very short while you’d start questioning why.
This is why I believe city and county moratoriums to be laughably narrow-minded. Does it make more sense to boost your city’s unregulated, untested marijuana black market or to instead provide your residents with safe, regulated access to weed that didn’t sprout in some creepy dude’s darkened basement? Is it better to increase your county’s tax revenue with the legal sale of pot or to instead delay the inevitable, month by money-squandering month?
I feel that adults in Washington can make their own decisions when it comes to marijuana usage. And with the passing of I-502, they already have. City and county moratoriums are out-of-touch blasts from the past. Marijuana legalization signals the beginning of a long-awaited shift away from the worn-out Cheech & Chong stoner stereotype toward a more mature, educated attitude about a plant that’s been enjoyed recreationally for thousands of years. We’re headed there either way; our local leaders just need to decide how long they want to wait to join us.