State liquor board to address marijuana use in bars

In response to recent reports of Washington state bars allowing patrons to use marijuana, the state Liquor Control Board has formally opened a rule-making process to address pot consumption in liquor-licensed establishments.

The Associated Press reported that bars in Olympia and Tacoma had recently allowed pot use. According to the liquor board, Section 21 of Initiative 502, which legalized marijuana in certain instances in Washington, states: “It is unlawful to open a package containing marijuana, useable marijuana, or a marijuana-infused product, or consume marijuana, useable marijuana, or a marijuana-infused product, in view of the general public. A person who violates this section is guilty of a Class 3 civil infraction under chapter 7.80 RCW.”

A class 3 civil infraction equates to a $103 fine that would be imposed on the customer.

However, the law does not address enforcement penalties for the licensee for allowing a prohibited practice, such as they do under state liquor laws.

“It is important that the board clarify now that consuming marijuana in a state liquor-licensed establishment is not acceptable,” said Board Chair Sharon Foster, in a press release. “Public consumption of marijuana is clearly illegal under Washington’s new law.”

In addition to the prohibition on public consumption, the board is concerned there may be public safety considerations for mixing alcohol and marijuana in liquor licensed locations such as over service and increased impaired driving.

Now that it has opened a rule-making process, the board will begin taking public input on the topic of consumption of marijuana at licensed locations. Details for providing public comment are on the Laws and Rules section of the WSLCB website at

Proposed Timeline

April 3: Board begins taking public comment
May 22: Board files draft rules
June 26: Public hearing on draft rules
July 3: Board accepts or rejects draft rules
August 3: Rules become effective

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