WA: Marijuana Lockbox Law Yields Little Results, Only 350 Distributed So Far

Photo Credit: Westword

A law that passed last year clearing the way for distribution of marijuana lockboxes by cannabis retailers has not had the impact supporters had hoped.

State Rep. Dan Griffey R-Allyn sponsored House Bill 1250 in 2017. It was signed by Gov. Jay Inslee and went into effect last July. The law made it legal for marijuana retailers to distribute cannabis lockboxes for free.

“Let’s do anything we can to keep our kids safe,” Griffey told us last year.

These boxes are meant to stop kids from accidentally eating marijuana. The hope was in April 2017 that cannabis retailers and county health departments would partner to pass out these boxes to parents.

One year later, we’ve learned that hasn’t happened.

While many county health departments in Western Washington tell Q13 News they hope to distribute boxes in the future, to our knowledge Mason County is the only one to distribute any pot lockboxes so far. Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, King, Pierce, Thurston, Kitsap, Island and San Juan counties’ health departments or district entities all tell Q13 News they have not yet distributed marijuana lockboxes to retailers.

According to Ben Johnson with Mason County Public Health, his county distributed 350 boxes last year.

Johnson said Mason County was the inspiration behind the law. Last year the county had a surplus of pot lockboxes, but state law prohibited the county from handing over the boxes to cannabis retailers to distribute for free. House Bill 1250 cleared the path for distribution. Griffey hoped the new law would allow other communities to do the same.

“I had high hopes that we would scale it and I think we will when we find these difficulties we must fix them and I believe we will do so,” said Griffey.

One of the big problems is funding. There was no money attached to the law and communities say they don’t have the funding to purchase lockboxes.

“The original belief is that the marijuana industry would step up to the plate and provide it as a service to customers. I still have that hope,” Griffey said.

According to the Washington Poison Center, the need for the boxes is still high. From 2016 to 2017, there was a 40 percent increase in toxic marijuana exposures among kids up to age 5.

While Mason County is the only county in our region to distribute marijuana lockboxes so far, there are counties who are interested and some actively trying to get funding to distribute.

Alyssa Pavitt runs the regional Youth Marijuana Prevention Program. While her base is in Whatcom County, she heads the program for the region that includes five counties including Skagit, Whatcom, Snohomish, Island and San Juan counties.

Pavitt said her regional program is looking at purchasing marijuana lockboxes to distribute as part of a campaign to reduce youth access to marijuana. While the plan still needs approval, she is optimistic the proposal will be approved and implemented by the end of this year.

Griffey said he’s pleased to hear about the progress in northwest Washington. Even so, he plans to revisit the legislation next legislative session to see if there’s anything he and the rest of Olympia can do to make sure this isn’t a lost opportunity.

“It’s our responsibility when difficulties are pointed out to fix it, and that’s what we’re going to do,” said Griffey.