Once again Seattle is the center of worldwide media attention. And once again it’s due to marijuana, in this case the July 8 opening of a single store near the sports stadiums to sell legal recreational more than a year-and-a-half after the state’s voters gave approval. (Nearly two dozen more locations in Seattle alone will open once paperwork and regulatory issues are resolved.)
Typical of the Seattle-As-Fun-City coverage was Jimmy Fallon on NBC’s Tonight Show depicting the Space Needle as a giant bong. Reporters from Europe and other far-flung places had plenty of yuks interviewing folks outside Cannabis City in the long line that started the night before. This being dog-happy Seattle, some opening-day buyers even brought along their best friend. “First puppy in state to buy legal pot,” declared one tweet with a photo.
Aside, perhaps, from a claimed constitutional right to get high, one of the major arguments advanced in Washington State for legalizing pot was to end the large diversion of law enforcement resources toward offenses with no victims, and also to raise a little coin. To me, still New To Seattle, legal pot might prove again the validity of that other great principle of human behavior, the Law of Unintended Consequences.
According to Allstate Insurance, Seattle drivers already are on the edge of of the bottom fifth of the nation’s big cities when it comes to safety. It’s hard to see how that pitiful ranking is going to rise. By one account, the statewide number of marijuana driving-while-under-the-influence cases already has gone up 38% in the past year.
Then there’s the state’s heavy regulation, coupled with a hefty 25% excise tax. That pretty much insures that black market pot–you know, the old-fashioned kind bought from a neighborhood dealer–will sell for maybe half the price of the officially legal stuff. The only way authorities might be able to stop that is to throw law enforcement resources at it. But that’s precisely the big reason given for going the legalization route in the first place. And given the permissive culture, how many juries are likely to convict?
If I am even half right, expect future rounds of wide media interest. What happens in Seattle rarely stays in Seattle.