- Associated Press - Saturday, June 27, 2015

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - The Legislature on Saturday passed a measure that that makes several changes to Washington state’s new recreational marijuana law, ranging from revising the market’s tax structure to zoning rules.

One of the main changes to the current system would be the elimination of the three-tier tax structure and its replacement with a single excise tax of 37 percent at the point of sale.

House Bill 2136 passed the Senate on a bipartisan 36-7 vote and now heads to the governor’s desk. The House passed the measure Friday on a 59-38 vote.

An amendment that passed Friday in the House removed language from the original bill that would have required local bans on licensed marijuana businesses to be approved by the jurisdiction’s voters.

To encourage more cities and counties to allow marijuana businesses, the bill directs the state to share pot revenue with jurisdictions that do so. It would also allow them to adopt more flexible zoning for where pot grows and stores can be located. The Senate on Saturday rejected an amendment that would have allowed jurisdictions with bans to also receive revenue.

Republican Sen. Ann Rivers said that the bill wasn’t perfect, but it addresses “some issues that were created for the recreational entrepreneurs that have engaged in the market.”

The passage of Initiative 502 in 2012 allowed the sale of marijuana to adults for recreational use at licensed stores, which started opening last year. Recreational businesses have complained that they are being squeezed by medical dispensaries that have proliferated in many parts of the state, providing lesser-taxed or untaxed alternatives to licensed recreational stores. Earlier this year, the Legislature passed and Inslee signed into law a measure that regulates the state’s medical marijuana system and reconciles the two markets.

Under the initiative for the recreational system, a previous three-tier excise tax system was set up to impose a 25 percent tax on the producer, a 25 percent tax on the processor and a 25 percent tax on the retailer. Under the measure, that structure is compressed to one 37 percent tax at the point of sale at the retailer.

The excise tax is one that everyone would have to pay, both medical marijuana patients and recreational users. However, under the bill, patients who are in a registry created under another bill passed by the Legislature earlier this year would be exempt from sales tax on their purchases.

The new measure allows counties and cities to reduce the buffer zone around businesses from the current 1,000 feet to as little as 100 feet for recreation and childcare centers, public parks or transit centers, libraries and arcades. The 1,000-foot zone would remain in place for schools. The measure also bans marijuana vending machines, marijuana clubs and drive-thru facilities.

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