October 07, 2015 13:51 UTC

As It Is

Washington State Debates Marijuana Measures

California continues to debate whether to make recreational marijuana legal in that state as well.

The state of Washington legalized marijuana last year
The state of Washington legalized marijuana last year
Washington State Debates Marijuana Measuresi
|| 0:00:00

From VOA Learning English, This is AS IT IS.
Welcome back! I’m Caty Weaver.

Growing marijuana and marijuana use are illegal in the United States under federal law. However, eighteen states and the nation’s capital, Washington, DC, permit the use of marijuana for medical treatment.
Last year, voters in two western states approved the recreational use of small amounts of the drug. In other words, people can smoke it for fun, much like the way they can use alcohol.

On our show today, we examine some of the measures being proposed to govern the production and sale of marijuana. And we visit the state of California to hear what people there think of the marijuana laws in other states.
Officials in Seattle, Washington expect their state’s new marijuana law to help the pot business grow into a multi-million industry within months. Avi Arditti tells about how this expansion might develop and what controls might be placed on it.
Patients flow in and out of The Joint, a marijuana supply center in Seattle. Owner Shy Sadis provides the drug in many forms, including marijuana-based baked goods, like cookies, and soft drinks.                           
Mr. Sadis hopes to expand his business to recreational pot users.
“All around Washington, and eventually someday, possibly in Oregon, California, Colorado, wherever cannabis is legal.”
Medical marijuana requires a recommendation from a doctor. Marijuana supply centers, known as dispensaries, are set up as non-profit businesses. But, Washington state lawmaker Roger Goodman says a different business model is being created for recreational marijuana.
“We have to have regulations that put in place means to produce cannabis, to process it and to sell it, that’s economical enough to be sold at a price that’s lower than the black market, and yet that is high enough to deter youth consumption.”
Under the new Washington state law, adults 21 and older can possess about 28 grams of the drug. However, there is still no legal way to buy marijuana, except for medical use. A production, sales and supply system is to be put in place later this year.
Recreational marijuana could be heavily taxed and the industry could be huge. State and local officials hope to gain hundreds of millions of dollars to help finance government spending.
At the same time, local governments may save money from not having to investigate, try and jail marijuana users. Pete Holmes is a lawyer with the Seattle city government. He says whites have been treated differently from racial minorities in connection with marijuana control laws. He first noted this when he took office in 2010.
“And that was an eye opening experience for me, because of all the pending cases. 59 to 60 percent were against African-Americans in a city with a seven percent African-American population. And a progressive city, I would add.”
Psychologist Steve Freng works for a combined federal and local law enforcement program called the Northwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. He says many questions about the new law have yet to be answered.

“How demand may increase, how consumption and purchasing may increase, how it’s going to impact folks under 21 years old, in much the manner that we are dealing with underage drinking right now.”
He says at least ten percent of marijuana users could become dependent on the drug. Most marijuana supporters agree that pot is a psychotropic substance. They admit it can temporarily change behavior and thinking. They say it is not something everyone should use. But they also argue it is safer than alcohol.
Sixty-eight year old James Higgins is a medical marijuana user. He supports the legalization of the drug.
“They will put no more people in jail for an ounce of weed (marijuana) or a couple of joints (marijuana cigarettes). Yes, I think it’s a good deal that it is legalized. It is going to help the economy and the people.”
No one knows how federal law enforcement will react to the new state laws in Washington and Colorado. The United States Department of Justice has promised a statement soon. Lawyer Pete Holmes hopes officials will wait and see how these social experiments develop.
I’m Avi Arditti.
Now we turn to California. Officials there are watching the marijuana law developments in Washington State closely. And the people of California are debating the limits of marijuana use. Kelly Jean Kelly has more.
Harborside Health Center is the nation’s largest supplier of medical marijuana. The Oakland, California, dispensary pays millions of dollars each year in state and local taxes. Oakland city officials support the work of the center. Harborside has also paid millions of dollars in legal costs to fight federal efforts to close it. But, co-founder Steve DeAngelo says the move toward nationwide legalization of marijuana has begun.
“The real question is, how is it going to be legalized? What is this new industry going to look like? How are we going to regulate it?”
The city of Los Angeles already has more than 1,000 unsupervised marijuana dispensaries and more are opening. Even supporters of the centers say the situation is out of control. A simple headache, or difficulty sleeping, can result in a doctor’s recommendation for medical marijuana.
Bill Rosendahl is a member of the Los Angeles city council. He says marijuana has helped him deal with cancer. He supports a proposal called Proposition D. It would reduce the number of dispensaries in Los Angeles to 135. Mr. Rosendahl says it would protect and bring order to an industry that has helped him.
“I feel strong. I feel I’ve got a long life ahead of me and I want to thank medicinal marijuana for making it happen.”
Public opinion surveys have shown that 70 percent of Californians support medical marijuana. A narrow majority supports fully legalizing the drug, as Colorado and Washington have done. But the drug is still illegal under federal law.
Today’s marijuana is powerful. Psychologist Steve Freng works with drug treatment programs in the Seattle area for the federal government. He says pot contains more of the psychoactive chemical THC in it now than it did in the past.
“Marijuana these days is not the marijuana that was out there when I was in high school and college. That was essentially Mexican ditch weed that, that, if you were lucky, was a three to five percent THC type of marijuana.”
Modern marijuana can have 15 to 20 percent THC and, as with alcohol, there are problems of abuse and use by children.
But the debate here is not about banning the drug, says marijuana dispensary founder, Steve DeAngelo.
“It’s no longer a question about where or not cannabis is going to be legalized. It’s not even a question of when, because we’re in that moment right now.”
He says the question now is how marijuana will be legalized. And, Americans are waiting for an answer from federal officials.
I’m Kelly Jean Kelly.
And that’s As It Is for today. Thanks for joining us.
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Alex Smith from: Russia
05/03/2013 6:05 PM
I never used Marijuana. I have no answers therefore. I do not smoke but sometime I am drinking an alcohol. When my future spouse say me no to bad as she think I will be better for her. The question if there is a wonderful spouse?

Learn with The News

  • Audio Nations React to Pacific Trade Agreements

    Nations are reacting to the Asia-Pacific free trade agreement reached by the United States and 11 nations in the area. The agreement has taken years to negotiate. President Obama has voiced strong support for the measure while U.S. lawmakers have reacted cautiously to the complex agreement. More

  • US Afghanistan General Campbell

    Audio US Accepts Blame for Afghan Hospital Attack

    Army General John Campbell said American forces are responsible for "mistakenly" hitting a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. He told a congressional committee in Washington that Afghan forces requested the airstrike. The Afghan forces said Taliban fighters were firing from the hospital. More

  • The China Auto Show featured self-driving cars.

    Video Driver Lets Go of Wheel in New Truck

    The first self-driving semi-trailer truck began its first trip on a major European highway last week. The German automobile company Daimler made the vehicle, which is named Actros. It is perhaps the first mass-produced truck whose driver will only be required to watch the vehicle’s movements. More

  • Palestinians burn tires during Israeli military raid in the West Bank city of Nablus, Oct. 6, 2015.

    Audio Israel Destroys Two Palestinian Homes

    Israel uses home teardowns as punishment for Palestinian uprising. Fear is growing that violence will worsen in the area.| As It Is More

  • Trade ministers from a dozen Pacific nations in Trans-Pacific Partnership Ministers meeting post in TPP Ministers "Family Photo" in Atlanta, Georgia, October 1, 2015.

    Audio Twelve Countries Reach Trans-Pacific Partnership Deal

    For the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal to take effect, the agreement needs approval from national legislatures in all 12 countries. Completion of the deal is a major foreign policy victory for U.S. President Barack Obama. However, U.S. congressional approval of the deal is not guaranteed. More

Featured Stories

  • Video Know Your Enemy

    Do you have an enemy? Hopefully, you don’t. An enemy is someone who hates you and you hate them back. An enemy threatens you, attacks you or tries to harm you. In some languages, there are different words for a personal enemy versus an enemy of war, political enemy or enemy of the state. More

  • Audio Everyday Grammar: Comparatives and Superlatives

    When we want to compare things we use comparative and superlative forms. Find out some of rules and exceptions of these important forms in Everyday Grammar for this week. More

  • Video ‘The Martian’ Mixes Science, Science Fiction

    Hollywood's latest space operation gone wrong movie stars Matt Damon as an astronaut mistakenly left on Mars. The film is a hit with movie critics. But what do science critics think? More

  • The Open Boat by Stephen Crane, Part 2

    Video The Open Boat by Stephen Crane, Part Two

    We continue the story of “The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane. As we told you last week, the story is based on true events. In eighteen ninety-six, Crane was traveling to Cuba as a news reporter. On his way there, his ship sank in the Atlantic Ocean. Crane climbed into the last remaining lifeboat. More

  • Audio Great Barrier Reef Choking on Pollutants

    The Great Barrier Reef is off the coast of Queensland in northeastern Australia. It is the largest living organism on Earth. However, the reef is being damaged by climate change and pollutants from farms that flow into the reef. More

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner
Confessions of an English Learner blog

Tell us About Our Programs