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How Weed Advocates Hope to Spark Legalization in Texas

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Less than a mile from the Whatcom County Courthouse and even closer to Bellingham High School sits Top Shelf Cannabis, the first store to open and operate after Washington state legalized marijuana for recreational use. Hundreds of people of all ages, including people in their 70s, lined up at Top Shelf when its doors opened at 8 a.m. on July 8, the Bellingham Herald reported. About three miles north of that dispensary, near an elementary school and a high school, is 20/20 Solutions, which opened in Bellingham, a town just south of the Canadian border, a few days after the legal pot law took effect.

Among those who visited both dispensaries during the first week of operations was Heather Fazio, the Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, a national pot lobbying force behind the legalization efforts in Washington as well as in Colorado—the first state to implement marijuana legalization on January 1 this year. “Nearly every dispensary was sold out or we were unable to get products. Luckily, two dispensaries did have products,” Fazio said of Top Shelf Cannabis and 20/20 Solutions. “It wasn’t that much different than seeing a liquor store.”

Fazio just happened to be in Washington when the law took effect as she made her way up the West Coast from California to Canada on a road trip. Driving back to Austin, Fazio decided to swing through Colorado for a legal marijuana fact-finding mission. She hopes it will bolster MPP’s efforts to get a bill that will legalize weed in the Lone Star state introduced in Texas’ 2015 legislative session.

[CHARTS: Public Policy Polling surveyed 860 Texas voters on their attitudes toward medicinal marijuana, decriminalization, and full legalization and regulation.]

“We went to Colorado and saw Medicine Man, a local dispensary that started out as medicinal and expanded when marijuana became legal,” Fazio said. “It was really cool to see it alive and in action and see the business side of things and really how professional of an operation it is. As a matter of fact, Medicine Man is expanding. They got the building next to them. It’s a whole new operation. When we walked in, it was white and clean and perfect. It felt like the white room from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.”

Fazio took dozens of photos: a room packed full of large green marijuana plants illuminated by strong lights; bar codes; Radio-Frequency Identification tags; labels that identify seedling cannabis plants as either being destined for recreational or medicinal use. “As soon as they get roots, [growers] designate [plants as] medical or recreational and it stays that way all the way through the process from a little clone getting roots to the final product, whether it’s infused into oil or into food and sold to consumers,” she said.

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