Recreational marijuana may be legal in Washington but pot plants will continue to be eradicated as the new state law does not permit production of the plant – only use and possession (unlike the medical marijuana law, which allows Washington patients and caregivers to both use and cultivate medicinal cannabis). By law, only state licensed and regulated cannabis distribution stand-alone stores (to open after December 1, 2013) will be authorized to cultivate and provide recreational pot to Washingtonians.
Earlier this week the Washington State Patrol (the state police possessing “general authority” enforcement powers) announced that the annual Marijuana Eradication Program will proceed despite the November passage of I-502, which legalized recreational pot in Washington.
Lt. Ron Mead of the State Patrol Narcotics Division made no concession to legal marijuana when promising: “Our eradication efforts have been aggressive in recent years, and will continue to be aggressive in coming years.”
Indeed, in 2012 the Marijuana Eradication Program obliterated 200,000 plants that surely could have been put to better use (though encouragingly, that figure was down from a whopping 600,000 plants destroyed in '09).
One issue still in question is federal funding – there has been speculation via a state analysis that the feds might withhold the $1.5 million annually they provide the State Patrol to wipe out weed, but Lt. Mead said he doesn't anticipate a problem receiving the funds.
More rational was the rhetoric from State Rep Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland) who told King 5 News: “Politically, I don't see a reason for spending money on [the Marijuana Eradication Program]. It's the federal government's drug war, let them pay for it. We're not going to pay for it anymore."
Besides using helicopters for aerial enforcement of pot eradication, the State Patrol also uses choppers for transport of donor organs and blood supplies for medical emergencies. Maybe they should stick exclusively to that practice, seems like a much wiser use of the Patrol's budget and resources.