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Voters say ‘Yes’ to marijuana measure

In the Nov. 6 general election, Washington voters approved Initiative 502, which legalizes the recreational use of marijuana.

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SEATTLE — It is one of Seattle’s most sought-after neighborhoods — beautiful houses, incredible views.

And now it’s home to Seattle’s first legal recreational marijuana-growing operation.

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Phillip Tobias, owner of Sea of Green Farms, the first legal recreational pot grow in Seattle, points to his crop in his Magnolia facility and says, “We have almost 35, 30 different strains in here.” (Photo: KCPQ-TV)

“We have almost 35, 30 different strains in here,” Phillip Tobias, owner of the Sea of Green Farms, said Tuesday.  “Most of them in this room are high CBG strains for medical purposes.”

Sea of Green Farms is located in an industrial area near the corner of 23rd and Commodore.

The CBG strain won’t get you high, but they have other strains that will.

Tobias said he’s in the business for just two reasons.

“There’s a lot of potential, a lot of profit to be made as far as growing marijuana. I have a passion for growing these plants, and getting the medication people want,” Tobias said.

He added that he chose Magnolia because of unlimited possibilities.

It is one of only three of areas in Seattle where farmers can grow as much marijuana as they want — that’s because it is beyond the 1,000-foot buffer from anything related to children.

Plus it is industrial and commercial.

Tobias said he only wants to be a good businessman and a good neighbor in Magnolia.

“We try to build a good relationship with everybody so we don’t have any problems as far as being the bad person in the neighborhood,” Tobias said.

When voters made recreational pot legal, everyone knew grow operations would soon follow.

People that Q13 FOX News asked about the business in Magnolia say they don’t have a problem with their new neighbor.

“It’s kind of a surprise that it’s on Magnolia, but it was going to happen and hopefully it will be good for the economy,” neighbor Marshall Harnish said.

“It’s inevitable. It was going to happen. As long as it is regulated … it was bound to happen. I don’t have an issue with it,” neighbor Jerry Montgomery said.

Already, Sea of Green Farms has expansion plans: They want to grow to 7,000 square feet and add a greenhouse on the roof.

VASHON ISLAND, Wash. — It goes by many names –marijuana, weed, pot, bud, ganja, chronic, reefer — and longtime residents say it has long been part of the culture here.

Now that it’s legal, marijuana and its byproducts are coming out onto the main street.

“I think the majority of the island is for it. I don’t smoke but I’m a supporter. I think it does a lot for people and their medical conditions, especially,” Vashon Island resident Grace Cunningham said Thursday.

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A view of a main street on Vashon Island. Some residents on Vashon Island are opposed to a company producing pot-infused snacks, candy in their community. (Photo: KCPQ-TV)

Three of four people here voted for pot legalization. It’s part of the reason why it has become known as “Weed Island.”

Now an out-of-state company is looking to capitalize on Washington’s newest industry.

Edipure is said to be in the process of buying the old K2 ski plant for nearly $1.5 million and use it to manufacture its line of more than 60 snacks, including crackers, candy and yes, even gummy bears.

“Candy marijuana, that I’m not so thrilled about,” resident Elizabeth Macomber said. “Candy is not good for you to begin with, and you don’t need marijuana in your candy.  It’s like a double whammy.”

Macomber considers herself neutral on the issue, but she seems to lean toward the opposition, especially when it comes to pot-infused candy.

“I think it really appeals to younger kids. It’s like ice-cream-flavored vodkas to me.  I think those are really inappropriate.  I think it’s the same thing for this marijuana thing,” Macomber said.

But the issue is much more complicated than that.

There is organized opposition to the plan.

Plus, there are zoning issues, and environmental concerns over a required Department of Energy cleanup of soil at the site contaminated by heating oil.

But for most, the opposition is a matter of — not in my backyard.

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Vashon Island resident Shawna Bowden says of those opposed to a factory producing pot-infused snacks: “I don’t know what they thought was going to happen when they voted yes, but this is what happens. It becomes in your backyard. It becomes everywhere.” (Photo: KCPQ-TV)

“I don’t understand.  Now that it’s in their backyard, they’re having a problem with it. I don’t know what they thought was going to happen when they voted yes, but this is what happens.  It becomes in your backyard.  It becomes everywhere,” resident Shawna Bowden said.

On the upside, the plant is expected to initially hire about 45 employees.

That number is expected to eventually grow to 100 jobs on the island.

“I think anything that’s going to help the community grow and provide jobs is a good thing,” Bowden said.

“It’s legal.  The genie is out of the bottle.  Might as well have some people on the island making some money and having some careers out of it and helping some patients,” resident Michael Berman said.

Local News
03/05/14

It goes to Mr. Green, of course! State issues first pot-growing license

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In Olympia, Sean Green holds up his newly issued business license allowing him to grow and process recreational marijuana in Washington state. (Photo: KCPQ-TV/Seattle)

OLYMPIA — The legal marijuana business took a big step forward in Washington, as the state Liquor Control Board on Wednesday issued the first license to grow and process recreational pot.

Sean Green, who got his start in the medical marijuana field and owns two medical pot shops in Spokane and Shoreline, was given the first license to grow marijuana for recreational use.

“We are living the American dream today, right here, right now,” Green said, smiling, as he held up his license.

The 32-year-old will immediately get to work at his new Spokane facility, where he’ll be allowed to grow 21,000 square feet of pot.

“It’s jobs for my friends, my team, and people I haven’t met yet — careers for lots of people,” Green said.

Alison Holcomb, who helped write the law legalizing pot here, was on hand to see Green get that license, and said she believes the world is watching a historic event.

“We`re showing the rest of the world that you can take this product out of the black market, bring it under control and that there are lots of law-abiding citizens willing to step forward and help you do it,” said Holcomb.

Green may have the first license, but more will be going out this week and beyond. The Liquor Control Board still has to weed through 7,000 applicants who want to be in the new pot business. Retail stores are expected to open sometime in June.

“I think we’re going to have to satisfy ourselves with a system that starts out smaller, but opens over time,” said board member Chris Marr.

Last year, two of Green’s former employees filed complaints with the state for withheld wages. According to the Washington Department of Labor and Industries, the case was closed two months later when Green settled with those workers for $1,600.

OLYMPIA — Turns out the state of Washington has a glut of potential pot growers.

The Liquor Control Board, which is implementing the rules and licenses for the state’s new recreational marijuana law, put no limit on the number of licenses for pot growers because the state is trying to encourage those in the black market to move into the legal market. But they got more than they bargained for.

Around 2,000 people were expected to apply to be growers. Instead, more than 7,000 applied. They would produce more than 35 million square feet of weed if they all got licenses, and the current cap is 2 million square feet.

pot-plantExperts say excess marijuana would hit the black market, go across state lines and create a target for federal law enforcement.

So the board is now making big changes to the rules on legal pot, limiting the number of licenses a grower can have from three to one, and also slicing the amount of growing space by 30 percent.

“People are going to have some patience and that`s going to be hard because they`ve invested money,” said Randy Simmons, the project manager for the Liquor Control Board. “This really is about making sure it`s not shut down in the future because the feds come in and say we’re not following the memo they gave us.”

Entrepreneur Chris Kealy, is retrofitting a warehouse in Tacoma to house thousands of pot plants. He has other buildings he planned for growing if he received three licenses.

That won’t happen now, but Kealy says he’s rolling with the punches.

“When we saw the flood of licensees, you couldn’t misunderstand that,” said Kealy. “You have to be patient and understand all of the variables everyone is dealing with.”

Kealy is optimistic the rules will be changed again to favor growers like him when state officials see how the new industry shakes out once it starts up.

The board expects the first growers licenses to go out the first week of March. The first retail store will likely open in late June.

Local News
02/19/14

Legal pot problems: State cuts licenses

pot-plant

 

Turns out the state of Washington has a glut of pot growers.

 

The Liquor Control Board put no limit on the number of licenses for pot growers because the state is trying to encourage those in the black market to move into the legal market. And they got more than they bargained for.

 

Around 2,000 people were expected to apply to be growers. Instead, more than 7,000 applied. They would produce more than 35 million square feet of weed if they all got licenses, and the current cap is 2 million square feet.

 

Experts say excess marijuana would hit the black market, go across state lines and create a target for the feds.

 

So the board is now making big changes to the rules on legal pot, limiting the number of licenses a grower can have from 3 to 1, and also slicing the amount of growing space by 30 percent.

 

“People are going to have some patience and that`s going to be hard because they`ve invested money,” said Randy Simmons, the project manager for the Liquor Control Board. “This really is about making sure it`s not shut down in the future because the feds come in and say we’re not following the memo they gave us.”

 

Entrepreneur Chris Kealy, is retrofitting a warehouse in Tacoma to house thousands of pot plants. He has other buildings he planned for growing if he received three licenses.

That won’t happen now, but Kealy says he’s rolling with the punches.

 

“When we saw the flood of licensees you couldn`t misunderstand that,” said Kealy. “You have to be patient and understand all of the variables everyone is dealing with.”

 

Kealy is optimistic the rules will be changed again to favor growers like him when we see how this new industry shakes out once it starts up.

The board expects the first growers licenses to go out the first week of March. The first retail store will likely open in late June.

 

 

 

 

 

Local News
02/14/14

Banks cleared to accept marijuana business

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The U.S. government issued rules on Friday for the first time allowing banks to legally provide financial services to state-licensed marijuana businesses.

The Justice Department issued a memorandum to prosecutors that closely follows guidance last August largely limiting federal enforcement priorities to eight types of crimes.

These include distribution to children, trafficking by cartels and trafficking to states where marijuana isn’t legal. If pot businesses aren’t violating federal law in the eight specific priorities, then banks can do business with them and “may not” be prosecuted.

potThe Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network issued guidelines that Director Jennifer Shasky Calvery said was intended to signal that “it is possible to provide financial services” to state-licensed marijuana businesses and still be in compliance with federal anti-money laundering laws.

The guidance falls short of the explicit legal authorization that banking industry officials had pushed the to government provide.

But because marijuana remains illegal under federal law, classified alongside heroin as among the most dangerous substances, officials say this is as far as the government can go.

Shasky Calvery said the government can’t give any legal guarantees and acknowledged that some financial firms won’t likely choose to do business with pot businesses.

Marijuana has been legalized for recreational and other uses under state laws in Colorado and Washington state. Eighteen other states and the District of Columbia allow marijuana use for medicinal purposes.

Attorney General Eric Holder said recently that he was moved to act as “an attempt to deal with reality that exists in these states.”

Speaking at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center last month, Holder said forcing marijuana businesses to be cash businesses, because they can’t access banks, was a public safety problem.

“Huge amounts of cash, substantial amounts of cash, just kind of lying around with no place for it to appropriately deposited is something that would worry me from just a law enforcement perspective,” he said.

FinCEN’s legal guidance creates two new categories for banks to report transactions with marijuana businesses.

All transactions will be labeled as “suspicious” and banks will have to file so-called Suspicious Activity Reports. Those transactions that banks believe are legal marijuana business can be reported to FinCEN as “marijuana limited” transactions. Those that banks believe may be illegal would be filed as “marijuana priority” transactions and would generate further scrutiny from regulators.

From CNN 

Local News
02/11/14

Whatcom County puts 60-day moratorium on pot business applications

BELLINGHAM — The Whatcom County Council passed an emergency ordinance Tuesday night that places an immediate moratorium on any new applications for marijuana producers, processors and retailers under the state’s pot legalization Initiative 502 and also for medical marijuana facilities.

potrules2The moratorium, passed unanimously by the County Council, will stay in effect for 60 days — and could be extended — to allow time for the county executive’s staff, the sheriff’s office and the prosecutor’s office to produce an interim ordinance for council review and approval, County Executive Jack Louws said.

The moratorium was needed, Louws said, for the following reasons outlined in the ordinance:

“Marijuana related operations are vulnerable to robbery and crimes of violence, as evidenced by the actual robberies and violence that have occurred at state legal marijuana medical sites within Whatcom County and elsewhere. The current requirements for locating a proposed marijuana facility do not specifically address the potential risks that these operations pose for surrounding residences, including those residences within isolated communities with limited police protection.

“It is necessary to have this moratorium take effect immediately in order to prevent future applications for marijuana producers, processors, retailers, and collective gardens from vesting under current laws and thus subverting the purpose of additional regulations to protect the public,” it said.

Louws said Whatcom County began receiving notifications of proposed marijuana facilities from the Washington State Liquor Control Board in mid-December and has been informed that licenses are to be issued as early as late this month or early March.

 

 

 

 

 

Local News
01/24/14

City attorney again asks for more marijuana stores for Seattle

SEATTLE — Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes on Friday said he renewed his request that the Washington State Liquor Control Board increase the number of retail marijuana stores in the city beyond the 21 currently allotted.

holmesIn a letter to the board Thursday, Holmes said, “As you know, some local governments have enacted legislation prohibiting I-502 licensees in their jurisdictions. It is likely that more local governments will enact this type legislation following the (state) Attorney General’s opinion regarding the authority of local jurisdictions to prohibit I-502 licensees…

“Last October I sent you a letter expressing concern tha the 21 retail locations allotted to Seattle may not be sufficient to meet demand,” Holmes wrote. “This concern becomes more urgent if other local governments attempt to prohibit I-502 retailers because the ensuing delay may increase demand on Seattle locations. I therefore renew this request to allot additional locations for Seattle to ensure there is a sufficient supply of and distribution system for legal marijuana to attract customers away from the illegal market at the outset.:

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson recently stated in an opinion that, under current law, local jurisdictions have the power to ban marijuana businesses.

 

 

 

By Joshua Rhett Miller

FoxNews.com

Former DEA Agent Patrick Moen — whose career with the Drug Enforcement Administration went up in smoke when he joined the lucrative legal marijuana industry — isn’t likely to spark an exodus from the agency, former colleagues say.

moenMoen, 36, quit his post in Portland late last year and is now working for Seattle-based Privateer Holdings, a private equity firm specializing in acquiring businesses in the burgeoning marijuana industry. The attorney who once spent long days dismantling drug rings throughout the Pacific Northwest will now help the company with state and federal compliance issues.

“I think he doesn’t represent the hard work of every other agent and the DEA,” DEA spokeswoman Dawn Dearden told FoxNews.com on Tuesday. Dearden declined further comment, but Moen’s former boss said he considers the move to be a source of frustration.

Moen, who could not be reached for comment early Tuesday, has said the decision was a difficult one.

“It’s not one I took lightly,” Moen told The Oregonian. “I talked with friends, family and coworkers. I sought out opinions. When it comes down to it, this is an incredible opportunity for me professionally and personally.”

Moen’s law degree and background in law enforcement — he reportedly began his career as a cop in New York at age 20 — are seen as “invaluable assets to the growth and success” of the company, according to its website, but his former colleagues aren’t too pleased about his career change.

Moen is the second DEA agent with Oregon ties to make the once-unthinkable jump to the marijuana industry. Paul Schmidt, who once served as the highest-ranking DEA agent in Oregon, is now working as a medical marijuana business consultant.

“A lot of people say, ‘How could you be so against it Monday and then on Tuesday you are all for it?” Schmidt told The Oregonian.

Schmidt, who testified as a federal drug agent in marijuana cases throughout the region, including Washington, Colorado and Wyoming, said he saw marijuana as the “least of the evils” among other drugs like heroin, meth and cocaine. Many younger officers feel the same way, he told the newspaper.

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, however, although 20 states and Washington, D.C., allow for medicinal usage. Recreational use has also been legalized in Colorado and Washington state, where 7,000 applications for producing, processing and selling the Schedule I drug are currently being considered. And efforts in at least five other states, including California and Florida, are ongoing to marijuana measures on the ballot this year.

Public opinion of the drug has seemingly changed dramatically as well. In October, for the first time, a Gallup poll found that a majority of Americans now favor legalizing the drug after reaching 50 percent in 2011. Seizures of marijuana by the DEA, meanwhile, dipped to 354,023 kilograms in 2012, the lowest amount since 2006, according to its website.

Moen, for his part, told The Seattle Times he has not used marijuana in the last 20 years. He said he doesn’t need to be a “concurrent consumer” to operate within the industry. Asked how he finalized his decision to leave the DEA, an agency he characterized as “the cream of the crop” among law enforcement circles, Moen said he realized over time that targeting marijuana was not an effective use of federal resources.

“There was no ‘aha’ moment,” he told the newspaper. “ … I had been contemplating career moves, looking for new challenges. It was partly a reflection of the general dysfunction of the federal government. Gridlock in D.C. has trickled down to affect every employee. It hurts morale. I’ll leave it at that.”

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