Bill would reduce penalties for selling marijuana to minors from felony to misdemeanor

SEATTLE — The penalty for selling marijuana to minors would drastically decrease if a state House bill becomes law, and it appears it likely will.

It's currently a felony for any pot store clerk, or budtender, who unknowingly sells marijuana to someone under age 21.

Jesse Huminski is a manager at Uncle Ike's Pot Shop in Seattle's Central District. He told KIRO 7 on Thursday that their budtenders are well aware of the penalties.

“They know if they're selling to someone underage they could be walking out of here with a felony today,” Huminski said.

House Bill 1792 would take that penalty from a felony down to a misdemeanor.

Uncle Ike's owner Ian Eisenberg testified for the bill and says the penalties should be closer to those for a bartender selling alcohol to a minor. The first offense is a five-day bartender permit suspension or $200 fine, and not a felony. The penalties escalate from there.

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“I think the disparity just doesn't make any sense at all,” Eisenberg said. “Personally I believe alcohol is probably more harmful to a minor than cannabis.”

The bill would still make it a felony if a retailer sells to someone they know is under 21. Otherwise it would be a misdemeanor.

“We're not trying to make it easier on us,” Eisenberg said of store owners. “Still, three strikes, you're out, we lose our license, the whole store is shut down. We just don't think the burden should be entirely on the budtender. It doesn't seem fair.”

The bill overwhelmingly passed the state House with bipartisan support and is now in the Senate Rules Committee.

“I think this is going to move forward because the only argument that could be against it is it's going to increase sales to minors,” Eisenberg said. “And I don't think that's likely whatsoever, because no budtender wants a misdemeanor and no store owner wants to lose their license.”