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Is the Government in Washington State Causing Crime Under Legalization?

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Last week Politico Magazine published an interesting story about a series of robberies in the Seattle area. These robberies all centered on legal marijuana businesses, but it’s a story that will appeal to true-crime enthusiasts just as much as those in the cannabis community.

The break-ins around Seattle were professional and well-planned, allowing the perpetrators to get away with a lot of marijuana that was ready for use. As growers in the area swapped stories, they began to suspect that either an employee was giving inside information to the burglars or, as Politico put it, “as the burglaries continued, the growers came to suspect that the criminals had found another way of getting the information they needed to target vulnerable businesses offering big payoffs: The government was giving it to them.”

It seems that while most states extensively track the activities of legal marijuana growers and even make some of that information publicly available, the state of Washington does both to a more extreme extent. From the Politico piece:

After Washington’s residents became the first in the nation (together with Colorado’s) to vote to legalize recreational marijuana sales and possession in 2012, the state liquor board, newly renamed the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board (WLCB) adopted exhaustive rules and regulations to govern the new trade. These require that cannabis producers and processors provide much more detailed information about their activities to the state each month than other businesses are obliged to provide—things like exactly how many plants they grow and harvest by batch and strain, how much inventory they hold and how much they sell, when, to whom, for how much. Whenever they transport product, they must file cargo manifests with detailed vehicle information. “We plant a seed, we report it,” Liszanckie says. “You take a cutting, you report it. How long you dry. What the final weight was. How soon did it go out door? What did you sell, who did you sell it to, for how much? What did they mark it up to? Easily 25 percent of our time is given over to tracking.”

The state and state-licensed data firms then post much of this information online, where it is available to the public.

I’ve often said the worst part about legalization – and it’s only real drawback – is that the government has to implement it. When I say this, I’m usually referring to general incompetence and bureaucratic red tape, but in this case it seems that state regulations in Washington have an even worse side effect than just generally increasing operating costs for cannabis businesses.

And what recourse do these business owners have? They can’t go to a different Washington state government and see if they do a better job. They just have to complain and pay lawyers and hope the government doesn’t get them robbed again.

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