Pot shops, Seattle City Attorney react to Trump administration hints at enforcing federal marijuana laws

SEATTLE – There is a lot of uncertainty in the Pacific Northwest after the Trump administration signaled it may start enforcing federal marijuana laws but Washington state officials have vowed to fight any crackdown.

Several pot shops told Q13 News they were somewhat surprised at the administration’s statements on Thursday.

Johnnie Veliz manages Pot Shop on Dexter Avenue and he is worried what could happen to his job if the federal government go after Washington’s recreational marijuana industry.

“It’s a pretty radical president we have here,” he said. “He’s pretty hard to pin down by even his own people.”

Veliz said the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board routinely swoops in to check if the shop is operating by the book.

“They send in stings to make sure we are checking IDs,” he said. “That’s the kind of relationship that we have with them and it’s a good balance.”

After passing a citizen initiative four years ago, voters instructed the state to manage the fledgling legal pot industry from growers to processors and retailers, only people with an approved license can be in the weed business.

Even so, entrepreneurs could still be prosecuted because marijuana is still federally illegal.

Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said he hopes to educate the White House about the success of Washington’s legal weed laws, and how they are cracking down on black market pot.

“As with most pronouncements out of the Trump administration, there’s very little to go on but they have potentially far-reaching consequences,” he said. “The City of Seattle has been able to close well over 120 unlicensed marijuana dispensaries, and in their place are 41-42 licensed strictly controlled retail marijuana facilities.”

Holmes also said thanks to a state-controlled market, illegal weed in our Washington is getting harder to find.

“We are seeing the illegal market having great difficulty competing with the legal market and we’re getting revenues that would other have gone to criminal operations,” Holmes added.

“It has me worried but I don’t think the sky is falling,” said Uncle Ike’s owner Ian Eisenberg.

Eisenberg runs a group of pot stores employing more than 100 people at three locations in King County. He said he is confident the state will fight hard to keep businesses like his from closing.

“I don’t think it’s something we really need to worry about at this point and there’s nothing we can do anyway,” Eisenberg said.