Politics & Government

A free lock box with your pot purchase? New state law means some stores could be handing out safes

Marijuana grows at Shelton-area Forbidden Farms in 2016. Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill Thursday that lets pot stores give out small safes in an effort to stop kids and animals from accidentally eating pot.
Marijuana grows at Shelton-area Forbidden Farms in 2016. Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill Thursday that lets pot stores give out small safes in an effort to stop kids and animals from accidentally eating pot. sbloom@theolympian.com

Your next trip to a marijuana store could come with a nifty giveaway thanks to the Legislature: A lock box to hide the goods from children and pets.

Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill Thursday that lets pot stores give out small safes in an effort to stop kids and animals from accidentally eating the drug. Washington’s marijuana laws have strict guidelines for what stores can sell or hand out, so the safes had to be specifically authorized.

House Bill 1250’s sponsor Rep. Dan Griffey, R-Allyn, said Mason County health officials have been pushing for the new law because they have a “large quantity” of small safes they’re planning to supply to the county’s marijuana shops.

The freebies are sparked by reports of children eating marijuana-infused foods when people don’t keep them secure, Griffey said. While perhaps not as serious as prescription drugs, he said, it can still result in emergency room trips.

“All drugs are dangerous if you’re not careful,” Griffey said.

The Washington Poison Center has received more calls from people concerned about exposure to marijuana since the drug was legalized by initiative in 2012, said Arti Patel, the center’s health education and outreach specialist.

Those reports include children. In 2016, the center got 49 reports of children 5 years old or younger who were exposed to marijuana.

“Marijuana in kids can produce significant symptoms,” from drowsiness to a coma, Patel said.

With the law in place, other local health departments might donate lock boxes to their local pot stores.

Thurston County doesn’t have a stockpile of them, but county spokeswoman Meghan Porter said the county “may want to explore” giving out the safes. Porter said Thurston County Commissioner Bud Blake was interested in the idea.

Pierce County officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The new law lets marijuana shops sell the safes as long as they’re not making a profit, and give them out for free on their own.

It comes with strings attached. Marijuana stores can’t require customers to buy marijuana or store products to get a lock box, or use them as a sales gimmick.

That drew mild concern at a January public hearing from Bailey Hirschburg, a lobbyist for the pro-legal marijuana organization NORML. He said he worried an earlier version of the measure was “a lot of regulation” for a product that comes in secure packaging and is sold only to those with proper identification.

He testified his organization didn’t oppose the bill, however. Hirschburg could not be reached for comment on the final measure.

The measure eventually flew through the Legislature with near-unanimous approval.

While health departments may chip in free lock boxes in some places, Griffey said he hopes stores volunteer to buy and hand out the safes themselves as a nod to public safety.

“I’m just hoping that the industry sees the value in maybe stepping up to the plate and being good neighbors and purchasing these or finding donations or whatever” to let customers have them for free, he said.

Walker Orenstein: 360-786-1826, @walkerorenstein

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