Wonkbook: Washington’s legal marijuana policy experiment

July 9

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(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Wonkbook’s Number of the Day: 4.6 million. That's the number of U.S. job openings in May, the highest level in seven years.

Wonkbook’s Chart of the Day: 30 years of companies abandoning the U.S. for lower taxes, in one chart.

Wonkbook's Top 5 Stories: (1) Washington's recreational-marijuana rollout; (2) Obama's border-crisis funding request; (3) improving your experience at the doctor's office; (4) highway, Ex-Im progress?; and (5) another bad day for the NSA.

1. Top story: Washington state's experiment with legal recreational marijuana begins

Sales of recreational marijuana begin in Washington state. "Washington’s experiment with licensed, legal recreational marijuana began tentatively in a handful of places around the state on Tuesday, with limited supplies...but with great enthusiasm and hoopla in the places where the sales occurred.Where the experiment will lead after the novelty wears off remains deeply uncertain....Possessing marijuana in small amounts and consuming it at home has been legal in Washington for almost two years now...and local law enforcement agencies had mostly backed off enforcing marijuana laws before that. It had not, however, been legal to sell it for recreational purposes until Tuesday." Kirk Johnson in The New York Times.

Explainer: How the recreational marijuana system in Washington state works. Katy Steinmetz in Time Magazine.

Chart: Where you can maybe buy recreational marijuana. German Lopez in Vox.

Slight problem: There's a shortage of legal pot. "Although some of Denver's marijuana shops ran out of product when they opened in January, the kind of shortages expected in Washington are above and beyond....The contrast speaks to just how varied different states' experiences might be as they strive to legalize marijuana for recreational and medical purposes....Strangely enough, the lack of regulations on the medical marijuana system, which isn't going through a shortage, could be the saving grace for Washington's pot enthusiasts. Because the system is so unregulated, many of Washington's marijuana users already have access to the drug through friends and medical dispensaries....The shortage might only affect curious newcomers and tourists." German Lopez in Vox.

Interview: Why illegal/unlicensed pot dealers are freaking out. Matt Berman in National Journal.

Lessons from Colorado: A pot learning curve. "The two states have been under scrutiny as they embark on test cases in legalization, watched closely by everyone from legalization critics to advocates pushing legal marijuana in other states, including Oregon and Alaska. Observers are keeping tabs both on how smoothly the rollout goes, as well as looking to the differences in the two states' approaches....The area of legalization under the most scrutiny in Colorado is the sale of 'edibles.'...In response to Colorado's experiences, Washington last month issued some new rules governing the packaging, labeling, and sale of edibles, and it has yet to issue a license for a kitchen to produce such products." Amanda Paulson in The Christian Science Monitor.

Explainer: 7 differences between Colorado and Washington state's recreational-marijuana systems. Trevor Hughes in USA Today.

It takes a lot to protect a pot shop. "To protect the people working, the pot and the profits, several layers of security are needed, he said. 'You can't cut in from above. You can't tunnel in from below,' said Davis, pointing to a maze of circuits on the ceiling. 'The system will pick you up before you ever manage to get inside.' Davis also has 14 high-definition, infrared cameras always rolling. Bullet-resistant glass is part of a demolition-resistant wall that customers first see after they walk through the front door. The facility is outfitted with motion sensors, heavy-duty locks and alarms.This, plus panic buttons for the workers, are what's necessary to deal with cannabis in an all-cash environment, he said." Natalie Swaby in KING-TV.

What's the pot-shop experience like? "Seattle’s first pot shop, in an industrial district south of downtown, is no Starbucks. It’s on a busy six-lane road on which trucks frequently rumble by, and it has no off-street parking. The store’s name is in small print above the mailbox. Under state rules, cannabis can’t be displayed in windows and the stores can’t be near schools, playgrounds, libraries, or parks. Inside, glass jewelry cases once used in a Sears (SHLD) department store display pipes and bongs. The bright lights and wood laminate flooring call to mind an optometrist’s shop in a mall, except for the cash machine next to the register. There’s no place to comfortably sit; pot can’t be consumed on the premises." Peter Robison in Bloomberg Businessweek.

Quotable: "It’s the quality. It’s like a candy store, like chocolates. You can never get enough." — Deborah Greene, a customer at a new recreational-pot shop in Wash. state. Maria L. La Ganga in Los Angeles Times.

Whose pot is better: Washington's or Colorado's? It's hard to say. "Retailers in Washington braced for long lines and high demand. The same happened when Colorado legalized recreational sales Jan. 1, and tens of thousands of buyers got the chance to pick from a wide variety of strains, from Blue Dream to AK-47 and Facewreck. Those names represent known genetic strains of marijuana plant — think Macintosh and Granny Smith apples — that are cultivated the world over. But even though the genetics are the same, how the plants are grown makes an enormous difference, experts say. That makes it all but impossible to make consistent comparisons." Trevor Hughes in USA Today.

Explainer: A guide for recreational-marijuana shoppers. Trevor Hughes in USA Today.

Cuomo signs bill legalizing medical pot in N.Y. state. "The measure, which passed both houses of the legislature during the final moments of the legislative session, in June, is significantly more restrictive than other medical-marijuana laws in the nation." Erica Orden in The Wall Street Journal.

Other legal reads:

Odd couple — Cory Booker, Rand Paul — team up on sentencing reform bill. Ed O'Keefe in The Washington Post.

Mob-busting tool used against online crime. Andrew Grossman in The Wall Street Journal.

Top opinion

PORTER: Blueprints for taming the climate crisis. "It offers a sobering conclusion. We might be able to pull it off. But it will take an overhaul of the way we use energy, and a huge investment in the development and deployment of new energy technologies. Significantly, it calls for an entirely different approach to international diplomacy on the issue of how to combat climate change....But despite these risks, the report offers a promising new path to overcome the decades-old logjam of climate change negotiations. For the first time, when we say we can stop the climate from heating we will more or less know what we are talking about." Eduardo Porter in The New York Times.

McARDLE: Who's the real Hobby Lobby bully? "I think...Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor are obviously correct — they are being forced by the government to buy something that they don’t want to buy....If it weren’t for state power, the Little Sisters of the Poor would be happily not facilitating the birth-control purchases of its employees; the Barack Obama administration has attempted to force them to do otherwise....All this is old ground. The interesting question is why people on the other side view ceasing the coercion as itself coercive while arguing that the original law did not, in fact, force anyone to violate their religious beliefs." Megan McArdle in Bloomberg View.

CHAIT: GOP after the apocalypse. "The reformicons’ retreat from Ryan-style apocalypticism is not only a shrewd tonal shift, but also a welcome — albeit unacknowledged — recognition that the party’s doomsaying has not come to pass, and that the American way of life will indeed survive Obama’s reforms. Indeed, the success of Obama’s domestic agenda may create more space for a conservative counteroffensive, in the way that Reaganism opened political room for Bill Clinton. Whether or not the reformicons ever compose a workable domestic agenda, they have come to recognize that they cannot run a presidential campaign promising to rescue America from fire and rubble visible only to themselves." Jonathan Chait in New York Magazine.

KRUGMAN: Conservative delusions about inflation. "Confronted with a conflict between evidence and what they want to believe for political and/or religious reasons, many people reject the evidence. And knowing more about the issues widens the divide, because the well informed have a clearer view of which evidence they need to reject to sustain their belief system....I found myself thinking about the similar state of affairs when it comes to economics....And if you look at the internal dynamics of the Republican Party, it’s obvious that the currency-debasement, return-to-gold faction has been gaining strength even as its predictions keep failing. Can anything reverse this descent into dogma? A few conservative intellectuals have been trying to persuade their movement to embrace monetary activism, but they’re ever more marginalized." Paul Krugman in The New York Times.

EDSALL: How much do our genes influence our political beliefs? "It’s been a key question of American politics since at least 1968: Why do so many poor, working-class and lower-middle-class whites — many of them dependent for survival on government programs — vote for Republicans? The debate over the motives of conservative low-income white voters remains unresolved, but two recent research papers suggest that the hurdles facing Democrats in carrying this segment of the electorate may prove difficult to overcome." Thomas B. Edsall in The New York Times.

WEISER: Sharing the leverage. "In their new book House of Debt, economists Atif Mian and Amir Sufi connect the vast increase in consumer debt with the Great Recession and slow-motion recovery. But rather than sing a requiem for a half-century of proxy Keynesianism...they shout hosannas for even more debt....Complex and opaque debt structures enable politicians and crony capitalists to disguise high leverage while spinning the predictable blowups as black swan events. If a consumer debt hangover is hindering the economy, as Mian and Sufi plausibly argue, then the government should be encouraging writedowns in exchange for the elimination of future guarantees and other hidden debt subsidies. Borrowers and lenders, not taxpayers, should bear the risk." Jay Weiser in National Review.

Animals interlude: Looks like Grumpy Cat has some company. "Purrmanently sad cat" looks adorably sad all the time.

2. Obama's requests emergency-funding to deal with the migrant crisis

Obama's border migrant-crisis funding request faces tough path on Capitol Hill. "Hours after the Obama administration requested $3.7 billion in emergency funding to address the current child immigration crisis at the southern border, few on Capitol Hill were predicting speedy passage — if at all — of legislation to provide Obama with the money he has requested. Instead, the conventional wisdom on the Hill among both Democrats and Republicans is the same as it has been for any number of issues this year — from minimum wage, to unemployment extension, to any number of jobs bills: probably not going to happen." Wesley Lowery in The Washington Post.

Chart: A breakdown of the White House's request. The Washington Post.

Border help for HHS, amid a potential new public-health crisis. "Those funds will help HHS provide 'appropriate care' for the children, who are mostly coming from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras....HHS is one of the agencies responsible for caring for the children, a little-known task that could prove arduous as the number of unaccompanied kids continues to surge. The department’s Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) program handled about 6,000 to 8,000 children a year between 2003 and 2011 while they were readied for deportation or took their cases to court. But a new wave of immigrants from Central America means the workload could soar to 90,000 unaccompanied kids this fiscal year and 127,000 in 2015, advocates told The Hill." Ferdous Al-Faruque in The Hill.

U.N. urges U.S. to treat migrant children as refugees. "People who enter the U.S. and nearby countries illegally from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras should not be forced to return home and should be treated as refugees, a U.N. agency says. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees says people from those countries are subject to persecution....The call from the U.N. echoes statements made in the spring, when the refugee agency released 'Children on the Run,' a report that cited interviews with migrant children who had crossed international borders to flee violence. This week, the U.S. and its neighbors will hold meetings in Nicaragua to discuss 'updating a 30-year-old declaration regarding the obligations nations have to aid refugees,' the AP says." Bill Chappell in NPR.

Obama will visit Perry, but not the border. What will they discuss? "President Barack Obama will meet Texas Governor Rick Perry on Wednesday to discuss a surge of Latin American young people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border that has put the two leaders at odds with each other. Perry's office welcomed the meeting, to take place in Dallas on the governor's turf, in a Tuesday statement that said they would discuss the humanitarian and national security crises along the southern border....But the White House said he would not visit the border, a sign that officials do not see a political upside." Mark Felsenthal and Jon Hershkovitz in Reuters.

Other immigration reads:

Mark Zuckerberg’s immigration push hits brick wall. Jessica Meyers in Politico.

ALDEBOT-GREEN: America's young refugees. "The president's solution to change the law governing the processing of unaccompanied youth would be a disaster, particularly for youth who have valid immigration claims. For now, the White House has decided to separate its emergency funding request from these contentious policy changes in order to more carefully consider the competing needs of respecting due process and speeding up removal. This is a good and prudent start to setting better policy in a trying context. No doubt the United States is now facing a refugee crisis within its borders. Yet the administration should not bow to pressure simply to gain political cover. Rather, it should advance policies based on the principle that unaccompanied youth migration is a humanitarian crisis." Scarlett Aldebot-Green in Foreign Policy.

Wonky caffeine interlude: What does it take to make a decent cup of coffee in space?

3. Improving your experience with your doctor

What are drug companies paying your doctor? You can find out soon. "The financial ties, which naturally raise conflict-of-interest concerns, aren't always clear, but that's about to change because of a lesser-known Obamacare provision. Some of the major drugmakers have been reporting some information about financial relationships with care providers — some voluntarily, some as the result of litigation — but a comprehensive nationwide effort is about to launch this summer, and the federal government is now looking to bring even greater transparency. Drug and device companies will now have to report to the government payments to doctors and teaching hospitals of at least $10 (or $100 over the year), and the Medicare agency will soon post the reports in a public database." Jason Millman in The Washington Post.

Long wait times have become the norm. "One small consolation of our high-priced health care system — our $2.7 trillion collective medical bill — has been the notion that at least we get medical attention quickly. Americans look down on national health systems like Canada’s and Britain’s because of their notorious waiting lists. In recent weeks, the Veterans Affairs hospitals have been pilloried for long patient wait times, with top officials losing their jobs. Yet there is emerging evidence that lengthy waits to get a doctor’s appointment have become the norm in many parts of American medicine, particularly for general doctors but also for specialists. And that includes patients with private insurance as well as those with Medicaid or Medicare." Elisabeth Rosenthal in The New York Times.

Doctors may soon be paid for not making you wait. "More doctor pay is being tied to patient satisfaction metrics, another sign health care may be coming more consumer-friendly, according to a new national analysis of physician compensation. Already, doctors and hospitals increasingly have more of their pay tied to health outcomes and related clinical measures as medical care moves toward value-based compensation rather than fees for service. But momentum is slowly building for physicians to also be measured on how quickly phone calls are returned to how long a patient sits in a physician office waiting area as part of 'patient satisfaction metrics' insurers are working into contracts with medical-care providers." Bruce Japsen in Forbes.

Preventive services differ between primary care docs and OB/GYNs. "The services women receive during annual preventive care visits may partially depend on what type of doctor they see, suggests a new report. Women who saw primary care doctors for their annual checkup tended to receive a broader range of services, compared to those who saw obstetrician/gynecologists (OB/GYNs), researchers found." Reuters.

Explainer: 4 medical tests that are awkward, embarrassing, and unnecessary. Sarah Kliff in Vox.

Other health care reads:

Smallpox vials found in storage room of NIH facility. Lena H. Sun and Brady Dennis in The Washington Post.

Without federal action, states move on long-term care. Michael Ollove in Pew Stateline.

U.S. Democrats aim to turn contraception into campaign drive. David Morgan in Reuters.

Food science interlude: The chemistry of why meat browns on the grill, or not.

4. Signs of promise on highway funding, Ex-Im Bank reauthorization

First, highway stopgap funding. "House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) on Tuesday proposed a transfer of almost $20 billion from the general tax fund to help sustain transportation funding until next April....Without the transfer, federal officials have warned that money for the nation's major transportation projects would begin to slow after Aug. 1 as the Highway Trust Fund dwindled. Separately, senators said Tuesday that they are nearing an agreement on a plan to replenish the highway fund. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del.)...declined to specify the parameters of their emerging plan." Ed O'Keefe and Ashley Halsey III in The Washington Post.

Primary source:

Need to get up to speed? See our previous coverage of this issue.

There's one problem, though: Can negotiations get done in time? "The plan by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, a Michigan Republican, would offset its costs by letting employers delay contributions to their employee pension plans, which raises corporate taxable income in a boon for the U.S. Treasury. It also would boost customs user fees and transfer $1 billion from a federal leaking underground storage trust fund. The proposal diverges from a plan in the Senate, complicating the ability to forestall a slowdown in disbursements from the highway trust to states next month." Laura Litvan in Bloomberg.

And Ex-Im Bank renewal could be part of government funding bill. "High-level discussions between the two chambers are in their infancy....But there are forces in both chambers pushing to renew the Export-Import Bank and pass an extension of the Highway Trust Fund before the election. The House will go first, and plans to extend the Highway Trust Fund sometime in the next two weeks, keeping the program funded until early 2015, Republican sources said. That would give Congress more time to debate a more permanent solution....Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is considering attaching a short-term reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank to a continuing resolution that would keep the government funded past Sept. 30." John Bresnahan and Jake Sherman in Politico.

S&P issues warns on potential downgrades if Ex-Im renewal falls short. "Political infighting regarding renewal of the charter of a U.S. agency that provides customers of big American corporations with loans for their wares is beginning to have an effect on investor thinking. Standard & Poor’s Monday cautioned Boeing, the largest beneficiary by far of the Export-Import Bank, could face a weakening long-term credit rating should the bank lose its charter." Greg Morcroft in International Business Times.

Democrats: The party of big business? Not so fast. "Democrats are seeing a new opportunity to rebuild frayed relations with business groups, whose traditional alliance with the Republican Party has been strained by tea-party opposition to rewriting immigration laws, a renewal of the Export-Import Bank and the pursuit of other business priorities....But Democratic outreach faces a big obstacle: Many business leaders, despite their frustrations with the GOP, have a hard time seeing a home in the Democratic Party, with its history of supporting tax increases and government regulation....Business groups in Washington find themselves in a tricky political situation, with anticorporate sentiment on the rise among elements of both parties." Janet Hook in The Wall Street Journal.

Dancing interlude: Watch Tom Hanks dance to "This Is How We Do It" by Montell Jordan.

5. The NSA just had another bad day

Long read: Meet the Muslim-American leaders the FBI, NSA have been spying on. "Among the Americans on the list are individuals long accused of terrorist activity, including Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, who were killed in a 2011 drone strike in Yemen. But a three-month investigation by The Intercept...reveals that in practice, the system for authorizing NSA surveillance affords the government wide latitude in spying on U.S. citizens. The five Americans whose email accounts were monitored by the NSA and FBI have all led highly public, outwardly exemplary lives. All five vehemently deny any involvement in terrorism or espionage, and none advocates violent jihad or is known to have been implicated in any crime." By Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain in The Intercept.

The government has asked Verizon for information 190,000 times, and it's only July. "Verizon's just published its second-ever transparency report, showing that in the first six months of 2014, the company received nearly 149,000 requests for customer data from the government. That's fewer than the 160,000 times that federal, state and local law enforcement asked Verizon for information on its customers during a similar period in 2013. For the first time, Verizon's described (albeit in pretty general terms) the number of Americans affected by each request. Of the more than 72,000 requests that came in the form of a subpoena during the first half of the year, 90 percent targeted three or fewer customers, according to the company." Brian Fung in The Washington Post.

Senate panel advances cybersecurity information-sharing bill, but privacy advocates fear it would give more power to NSA. "The legislation includes provisions aimed at protecting privacy, such as requiring that companies that share information first strip out personally identifiable data (such as names, addresses, and Social Security numbers) of known Americans. But the privacy groups are still worried that the legislation could encourage a company such as Google to turn over vast batches of emails or other private data to the government. The information would go first to the Homeland Security Department, but could then be shared with the NSA or other intelligence agencies." Brendan Sasso in National Journal.

Primary source: Financial services industry backs Senate bill.

Interview: Hillary Clinton: "Surveillance on Merkel's phone was absolutely wrong." Marc Hujer and Holger Stark in Der Spiegel.

Other tech reads:

Tech CEOs push billions for Wi-Fi in schools. Kate Tummarello in The Hill.

Password protected: States pass anti-snooping laws. Jeffrey Stinson in Pew Stateline.

Speed demon interlude: Girl recites the names of the 50 states in under 20 seconds.

Wonkblog roundup

Cheer up, Brazil. Your epic World Cup loss could bode well for your economy. Max Ehrenfreund.

One insurer’s answer to the skyrocketing bills for cancer care. Jason Millman.

The rise and fall of Crumbs, America’s first public cupcake company. Roberto A. Ferdman.

Refinancing could save these homeowners nearly $200 a month. Here’s why they won’t do it. Dina ElBoghdady.

30 years of companies abandoning the U.S. for lower taxes, in one chart. Roberto A. Ferdman.

A leaked document shows just how much the EU wants a piece of America’s fracking boom. Lydia DePillis.

Et Cetera

How a text message could revolutionize student aid. Owen Phillips in NPR.

Long read: Evangelicals are changing their minds on gay marriage. Jim Hinch in Politico Magazine.

Gay rights groups withdrawing support of ENDA after contraceptive decision. Ed O'Keefe in The Washington Post.

The Boehner lawsuit against Obama is beginning to take shape. Billy House in National Journal.

Congress looks for new ways to combat sex trafficking of children. Renee Schoof in McClatchy Newspapers.

Global poverty levels halved, but more Africans in extreme poverty than in 1990. Avaneesh Pandey in International Business Times.

Got tips, additions, or comments? E-mail us.

Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams and Ryan McCarthy.

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