Although growing and consuming marijuana is illegal under federal law and in most states, some places have taken measures to permit its use under certain circumstances. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 19 states and the District of Columbia allow marijuana to be used for medicinal purposes. However, Washington is unique in that it allows the drug to be used for recreational purposes as of this year.
According to The Associated Press, this recent legislation presents a number of issues for Washington officials. For one, its law goes against federal statute, meaning that the U.S. Attorney General's office has the power to take down the budding industry if need be. Also, none of the areas neighboring Washington have legalized marijuana, so officials have to develop a system that ensures the state does not become a hub for illicit trafficking.
"I am going to be personally committed to have a well regulated, well disciplined, well tracked, well inventory-controlled, well law-enforcement-coordinated approach," said Washington Governor Jay Inslee, according to the AP.
How Washington's Automated Data Collection System Might Work
One method regulatory officials could use would be to set up checkpoints at all roads leading out of the state to see if marijuana is being smuggled out of Washington. However, this plan would be cost prohibitive and would likely do little to curb the illicit drug market. Instead, according to the AP, officials may want to look at the standards enacted in Colorado, the only other U.S. state that has legalized cannabis.
In Colorado, growers and dispensaries are required to use barcode tracking software for all of their inventory. That information is then shared with state officials through an automated data collection system. This way, regulators can not only keep tabs on what is coming into and out of grow houses and dispensaries, but also see if locations are developing excess inventory. The AP reported that one of the biggest fears held about legalization laws is that entrepreneurial criminals can siphon off their legal supplies for use in the illicit drug trade.
By using data collection tools in conjunction with traditional policing practices, Inslee said he is confident Washington will not become the epicenter for cannabis trafficking, the AP reported.