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Youth Access To Marijuana Remains A Concern Under Legalization

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The lottery to determine who will get a license to open a marijuana retail store in Washington gets under way this week. But the results probably won’t be known until early next month. Meanwhile, as Washington and Colorado go where no state or nation has gone before, concerns remain about kids getting their hands on pot.

There’s one thing the Obama administration is most concerned when it comes to legalized recreational marijuana: make sure kids are not part of this grand pot experiment. In Washington, the rules have been written to restrict marketing and advertising. And there’s a hefty tax levied on legal pot.

But Rosalie Liccardo Pacula with the RAND Corporation is still concerned. She’s an economist, but also a mom.

“I don’t think we should be fooled into believing that we’ve got it right for keeping it away from youth,” she said.

Liccardo Pacula and her colleagues have just published a study that looks at lessons learned from alcohol and tobacco regulations. She says one takeaway is that even kids are price-sensitive. So higher prices should mean fewer youth will try pot and those who do will use less.

“Those are both good public health objectives,” Liccardo Pacula said.

Liccardo Pacula says a key question she has is whether Washington should tax marijuana by THC level instead of by quantity as is the current law.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.