Wash. Bars Allowing Marijuana Use Could Face Penalties

Apr 4, 2013

Pot possession is now legal in Washington. But city and state regulators are drawing the line at marijuana use in bars and coffeeshops. KUOW’s Amy Radil reports.

  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 the use of marijuana in their establishments.

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 impaired drivers. The agency expects to gather comments and implement new rules for bar owners this summer.

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 coffeeshop” in Belltown. DPD inspectors said there needed to be better delineation between the coffeeshop and the adjacent marijuana dispensary. While there are numerous medical marijuana dispensaries in Seattle, the city attorney’s office isn’t aware of any Seattle bars or businesses currently allowing marijuana use on-site.

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