Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pragmatism > Legality

Washington State is in the middle of a massive budget crisis, which prompted Governor Christine Gregoire to announce big cuts in education, medical care, and various programs in the state. The Washington State Department of Revenue, on the other hand, is looking to fill in some loopholes. They have sent a letter to 90 medical marijuana dispensaries that they identified in internet searches which demanded that they pay state sales, business, and occupation taxes. There's no estimate given for the amount that Washington State expects to raise from the 90 patently illegal (even under state law) businesses. Medical marijuana law exists in Washington state, but it requires that either a patient or a designated caregiver grow the medicine. The law did not provide for the sale of marijuana.

The revenue-collecting agency just happens to be ahead of the legislature on this issue. Some former medical marijuana advocates are against the move, but really, any move which normalizes marijuana sales is a positive step towards ending prohibition. Of course, as was true for the proposed tax-marijuana-when-prop-19-passes stance, this taxation could expose distributors to federal (or even state) criminal penalty. The legislature needs to follow the tax agency's lead here if it wants to support the Department of Revenue in plugging the budget hole from every conceivable source.

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