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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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Obama: Marijuana ‘no more dangerous than alcohol’

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Marijuana, which is still placed in the same category as heroin, ecstasy and psychedelic mushrooms by the federal government, is no more dangerous than alcohol, President Barack Obama said in an interview published Sunday.

Speaking to New Yorker editor David Remnick, Obama said he still viewed pot smoking negatively – but that on the whole, the drug wasn’t the social ill that it’s been viewed as in the past.

“As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol,” Obama told the weekly magazine.

RAW: Obama still has the ‘juice’ to battle sequestrationThe president said pot was actually less dangerous than alcohol “in terms of its impact on the individual consumer.”

“It’s not something I encourage, and I’ve told my daughters I think it’s a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy,” he said.

Two states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized recreational marijuana use. Another 18, along with the District of Columbia, allow some legal pot use, primarily for medicinal purposes. But when it comes to federal law, marijuana remains a schedule 1 controlled substance – a drug with high potential for abuse but no accepted medical use – and the White House has said that Obama doesn’t support changing that status.

Instead, Obama said in the New Yorker interview that he’s focused on making laws that treat users fairly.

“We should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time when some of the folks who are writing those laws have probably done the same thing,” he told Remnick.

In August, Obama’s Justice Department announced it would not challenge legalization in Colorado and Washington, and instead focus federal enforcement on trafficking cases and preventing pot from getting in the hands of kids. Prosecutors are now required to focus on distinct enforcement priorities that also include preventing driving while high and forbidding the cultivation of marijuana on public lands.

In the New Yorker, Obama said Colorado and Washington’s laws were “important” since they decriminalized a commonly used substance. But he also said the laws could raise questions for other illegal substances.

“If marijuana is fully legalized and at some point folks say, Well, we can come up with a negotiated dose of cocaine that we can show is not any more harmful than vodka, are we open to that?” Obama wondered. “If somebody says, We’ve got a finely calibrated dose of meth, it isn’t going to kill you or rot your teeth, are we O.K. with that?”


Local News

State attorney general: Cities, counties can ban pot businesses

KENT — Chris Kealy has big plans for his marijuana business in Kent, including an enclosed warehouse to grow and process legal pot, and employ more than 30 people.

“It became apparent to me we could put this industry in that building and fill it up,” Kealy said.


State Attorney General Bob Ferguson announcing his opinion Thursday on the legality of local governments banning pot businesses. (Photo: KCPQ-TV)

But the city of Kent put the brakes on those plans when it enacted  a moratorium on any pot business within its borders. That could lead to a permanent ban.

“It’s a crime under federal law, and therefore it’s not going to be permitted in Kent as long as it’s a federal offense,” said Kent City Attorney Pat Fitzpatrick, echoing the concerns of the City Council.

If Kent wants to ban marijuana grows and sales, it got the backing of the state’s top lawyer.

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson was asked by the Liquor Control Board for his opinion on the legal marijuana businesses and the rights of cities and communities to keep them out.

In an opinion issued Thursday, Ferguson said he believes local governments do have a right to ban recreational marijuana businesses despite state law making them legal.

Ferguson said it was perfectly within the rights of local municipalities to ban growing, distributing and selling marijuana in their jurisdiction via land-use restrictions. In order for that to change, Ferguson said, the Legislature would need to pass a bill amending I-502, the initiative passed by voters that made recreational marijuana legal, to ban local and county moratoriums.

“Nothing in the initiative itself says it allows businesses to operate in conflict of the (local) law,” Ferguson said.

Several counties, such as unincorporated Pierce County, and smaller cities already have recreational pot business bans on the book. Conversely, a bill has already been proposed in the Legislature that would amend the law to fix what many consider a loophole.

Kent’s city attorney is already in a legal battle to keep medical marijuana out of the city. He said when the city’s moratorium on retail marijuana ends in May, he expects an outright ban, despite the fact that the majority of people in Kent voted in favor of legal marijuana.

Kealy is still optimistic that he can convince the city to allow his big plans to continue.

“I think we’re adding to the conversation that ultimately there’s a demand from your citizens, so if you’re going to be a representative democracy, at some level you’re going to respond to what your citizens voted for.”

Ferguson said his decision would likely be challenged in court.

Seattle City Attorney Peter Holmes said he was “dismayed” by Ferguson’s opinion and urged the Legislature to make the necessary changes to the state law.

“To make I-502 succeed and implement the will of Washington’s voters, it is important that local governments be partners, not roadblocks,” Holmes said in a statement. “Like the Washington State Liquor Control Board, I am dismayed by the policy implications stemming from today’s Attorney General’s Opinion, which interprets I-502 as allowing local governments to ban outright I-502 licensed producers, processors and retailers from their jurisdictions.

“As the Attorney General’s Opinion itself stated, ‘if a large number of jurisdictions were to ban licensees, it could interfere with the measure’s intent to supplant the illegal marijuana market.’ I urge local governments to be mindful of this concern and carefully, thoughtfully zone I-502 licensees without prohibiting them outright,” Holmes said.

“The Attorney General’s Opinion notes that the Legislature can clarify local jurisdictions’ zoning authority. The Legislature should support I-502’s implementation by taking this step,” Holmes added. “RCW 69.15A.140, which would allow local jurisdictions to zone — but not prohibit altogether — licensed marijuana businesses, was enacted as part of SB 5073 and could be a model for legislatively enacted I-502 zoning authority.

“I also urge the Legislature to make local jurisdictions stronger partners in I-502’s landmark system of legalization with taxation and regulation by passing HB 2144 — and sharing a portion of the retailer excise tax revenue with local jurisdictions that welcome I-502 licensed retailers,” he said.

Local News

Attorney General says cities and counties can ban pot businesses

SEATTLE — Local governments have a right to ban recreational marijuana businesses despite state law making them legal, Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said Thursday.

Ferguson said it was perfectly within the rights of local municipalities to ban growing, distributing and selling marijuana in their jurisdiction via land-use restrictions. In order for that to change, Ferguson said, the state Legislature would need to pass a bill amending I-502 to ban local and county moratoriums.

“Nothing in the initiative itself says it allows businesses to operate in conflict of the law,” Ferguson said.

Several counties such as Pierce County and smaller cities already have recreational pot business bans on the book. Conversely, a bill has already been proposed in the legislature that would amend the law to fix what many consider a loophole.

potFerguson said his decision would likely be challenged in court.

WASHINGTON — The Drug Enforcement Administration’s chief of operations told a Senate hearing Wednesday that the legalization of marijuana at the state level is “reckless and irresponsible” and will have severe social costs for the United States, The Washington Post reported.


Lines were once again large outside Denver’s Evergreen Apothecary on Jan. 2, 2013, for the second day of legal recreational marijuana sales in Denver. Many had no luck on Jan. 1. (Photo: Twitter / Chris Jose)

According to the newspaper, the DEA’s James Capra was responding to a question from a senator about state legalization of marijuana during a hearing about drug cultivation in Afghanistan.

“It scares us,” Capra said. “Every part of the world where this has been tried, it has failed time and time again.”

Capra said the early days of legal pot sales in Colorado dismayed federal drug agents.

“There are more dispensaries in Denver than there are Starbucks,” Capra said, according to the Post. “The idea somehow people in our country have that this is somehow good for us as a nation is wrong. It’s a bad thing … This is a bad experiment. It’s going to cost us in terms of social costs.”

Capra said the legalization in Colorado and Washington state have led to uncomfortable questions from law enforcement partners abroad.

“Almost everyone looked at us and said, ‘Why are you doing this…,’” Capra said. “I don’t have an answer for them.”

SEATTLE — It starts with a phone call.

That sets into motion a well thought-out process, from phone call to dispatch, to the driver who delivers high-quality recreational pot to your door in 45 minutes or less.

It’s simple as that.

Seattle retail pot rulesProve you’re 21 or older, sign a document saying you believe marijuana has medicinal properties, hand over the cash, take the weed and the deal is done.

“When we got into it originally, we just really needed a way to feed ourselves and our families and it was really not intended to get as big as it did,” said the founder of the Winterlife Co-op, who goes by the name Otter.

Everyone in the company has a critter name.

Open since early last year,the business has grown exponentially.

“Our main goal is to provide safe, legitimate and reliable service to the smoking community of Seattle,” Otter said.

Along with pot, customers can also buy edibles and oils, even smoking paraphernalia.

While it is still a legal gray area, Otter says they welcome police oversight.

“The laws right now, as far as we can tell, we’re trying to do as much as possible to fit within those guidelines and any laws that come about in the future we’re totally willing to do those as well,” Otter said.

The fact of the matter is every time a deal is done, the law is broken.

But, it’s not that simple.

“The problem is the driver — or the deliverer who is handing you the marijuana — is actually committing a felony, technically,” said the ACLU’s Allison Holcomb.  “The person who is purchasing the marijuana is completely fine. It’s never been a crime under Washington state law to buy marijuana.”

Holcomb authored Initiative 502 and she’s also the criminal justice director for the ACLU-Washington.

Holcomb says, technically, I-502 requires all sales to occur on the premises of a state licensed outlet.

Bad news for drivers? Maybe, but the chance of arrest, at least right now, is unlikely.

“If there are no complaints, and no one is being hurt, we would hate to take resources away from those investigations where people are being robbed and attacked and deploy them in another area where there basically have been no complaints,” Seattle Police Department spokesman Sean Whitcomb said Wednesday.

So for now, let the deliveries continue.

For how long, nobody knows.

When the Justice Department allowed Washington state’s  legal marijuana experiment to continue, in spite of its illegality at the federal level, one requirement was that legal sales dry up the black market, which technically this business is.

So things could still change after state-licensed pot shops open later this year.

Local News

Pot business applications total more than 6,500

OLYMPIA — The Washington State Liquor Control Board recently updated it’s numbers on the amount of people applying to grow, distribute and sell marijuana legally Washington.

potAs of 12 p.m. Tuesday, 6,619 applications were processed to the board. They broke down as follows:

– 2,666 applications for producers

– 1918 applications for processors

– 2035 applications for retailers

Applications for needed to be submitted to the board by Dec. 20, but a final number on the applications has not yet been completed since the state received so many.

There is no limit on the number of growers and processors, but the state will license only 334 retail stores.

DENVER (KDVR-TV) — Colorado made history New Year’s Day when it became the first state to allow stores to sell marijuana for recreational purposes to anyone age 21 or older.

On day two of marijuana sales in Colorado, most of the lines in front of the state’s new recreational pot shops were still stretching out the door and around the block.


Lines were once again large outside Denver’s Evergreen Apothecary on Jan. 2, 2013, for the second day of legal recreational marijuana sales in Denver. Many had no luck on Jan. 1. (Photo: Twitter / Chris Jose)

As many as 30 stores throughout Colorado were able to start selling recreational weed on Jan. 1, with 18 of them being in Denver. With that few stores and such high demand, many were worried about the possibility of a pot shortage.

Tim Cullen wasn’t one of them. Cullen owns Evergreen Apothecary, a recreational marijuana retail shop near the intersection of East Iowa Avenue and South Broadway.

“The stores were ready for this,” Cullen said. “We’ve been preparing for this for months. We’re well connected and friends with many in the industry. We didn’t talk to anyone who was concerned about a shortage yesterday.”

Despite his assurance that there wouldn’t be a shortage of marijuana available for purchase, Cullen was limiting purchases to one-quarter of an ounce on Thursday, which is well below the one ounce limit that is permitted for purchases by new Denver laws.

As far as the prices of marijuana across the states, it’s been estimate that one-eighth of an ounce will cost between $30 and $50, depending on the type of marijuana. That’s not including tax.

Many marijuana customers were reluctant to go on camera to talk about their purchases, with most citing concerns about their bosses seeing them with weed. In many cases, their concerns have some credence, as retailers are permitted to collect buyer information from marijuana customers and there are also no laws preventing them from passing out that information to third parties, which would include concerned employers.

That said, Cullen said his store and most marijuana retailers he has spoken with will refuse to give out that buyer information.

A total of 136 stores just received state licenses last week, but most of them apparently haven’t obtained approval yet from their local governments to open on Jan. 2.

Mayor Michael Hancock said he is proud of how the city implemented Amendment 64.

“I want to thank the businesses and consumers alike for acting responsibly and with great accountability today. Denver is a progressive city, a vibrant city, and it’s incumbent on all of us to continue getting this right,” Hancock said in a statement.

Voters in 2012 approved the sale of recreational marijuana, as have voters in the state of Washington, but Colorado was the first to have the pot shops up and running under regulations recently established.

Not all of the state is participating in the new law. A community can decide not to allow the shops, and in fact, most of the state geographically hasn’t, including communities such as Greeley and Colorado Springs.

Proponents of the new law were dealt a setback last week when Denver and state officials threatened to shut down a private party at a dance club scheduled for Jan. 1 celebrating the end of the prohibition against cannabis — an event billed as “Cannabition.” The organizers canceled the party because officials said it would violate a Denver ordinance prohibiting the public consumption of marijuana.

Cannabis can only be smoked on private premises, with the owner’s permission.

Under the new state law, residents will be able to buy marijuana like alcohol. The cannabis purchase is limited to an ounce, which is substantial enough to cost about $200 or more. People from out of state can buy up to a quarter ounce.

Meanwhile, in a vivid example of how recreational pot is a new reality for the state, Denver officials posted public signs in the tourist-populated corridor known as the 16th Street Mall. The street signs read, “Know the Law about Marijuana Use in Denver.”

“You must be 21 or older to have or use retail marijuana,” says one bulletin on the sign. But further below it, the sign warns readers that “it is illegal to use, display or transfer marijuana on the 16th Street Mall.”

Meanwhile, Denver International Airport authorities this week have banned all marijuana on the airport grounds. Medical marijuana had been legal to bring to the airport as long as it didn’t go through security checkpoints, said airport spokeswoman Stacey Stegman.

But a total ban was implemented to avoid confusion as the recreational pot law rolls out, she said. Officials are concerned that a large influx of people may take marijuana to the airport and transport it across state lines.

So even if a visitor brings marijuana to the airport and leaves it in the car to pick up a relative at the terminal, that visitor will be breaking the law and could face a fine of up to $999, Stegman said.

Colorado will also become the first place in the world where marijuana will be regulated from seed to sale. Pot, by the way, is the third most popular recreational drug in America, after alcohol and tobacco, according to the marijuana reform group NORML.




Local News

Washington watches as Colorado pot stores open

Wednesday marked a historical day for marijuana advocates, as Colorado opened the first legal recreational pot stores in the world.

Under Colorado’s new law, anyone older than 21 can buy pot from licensed retailers but purchases can only be made with cash.

Legal Sale Of Recreational Marijuana Begins In Colorado

Tyler Williams of Blanchester, Ohio selects marijuana strains to purchase at the 3-D Denver Discrete Dispensary on January 1, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. Legalization of recreational marijuana sales in the state went into effect at 8am this morning. (Photo by Theo Stroomer/Getty Images)

The lines were long, and many people stood in snow showers to be there when the stores opened their doors. Sean Azzariti was one of the very first customers.

“I couldn’t be more excited,” said Azzariti. “It’s huge, changing the world.”

The situation in Colorado is being closely watched by Alison Holcomb, who wrote I-502, which legalized pot in Washington. So far, the Liquor Control Board has received nearly 5,000 applications for pot businesses.

“A lot of what we heard during the campaign was that no one in their right minds would ever apply for one of these licenses,” said Holcomb. “Clearly that`s not the case. There`s lots of people excited about the possibility of participating in this new market.”

There are still a lot of challenges ahead before the first retail marijuana stores open in Washington this summer. Because marijuana on the federal level is still illegal, most banks won’t do business with pot entrepreneurs. They’ll also be denied federal tax deductions. Some communities around Washington are also rebelling against the idea of pot businesses in their backyard, with moratoriums and outright bans on them.

Holcomb believes pot entrepreneurs will be like any other small business owners in the state, just operating in a new industry. It’s an industry she also predicts will expand in 2014, with at least three more states legalizing marijuana.

Local News

Researchers: Washington state consumes a lot of pot

SEATTLE — As a state, Washington apparently smokes a lot of pot.

That’s what new research is telling us, as the Washington State Liquor Control Board figures out how much legalized marijuana needs to be produced and sold in retail stores.

marijuana-jointEven the researchers from the nonprofit think-tank Rand Corporation, commissioned by the state to figure out how much cannabis people consume, were surprised at the numbers.

“The number of users, that was pretty well-understood,” said Rand’s Jonathon Caulkin. “But the amount that each user consumes is higher then has previously been thought.”

Researchers found that users in Washington consumed around 175 metric tons of marijuana in 2013, more than double what the state estimated before pot was legalized.

The Liquor Control Board, which is in charge of regulating legal pot, said its numbers were much closer to what researchers found.

“We’re in the ball park there,” Liquor Control Board spokesman Brian Smith said. “So nothing immediately needs to be done with our rules or anything along those lines.”

Knowing how much pot is smoked is critical. If the state grows too much, it could lead to more pot being smuggled out of state. If the state grows too little, it could put more money in criminals’ pockets.

“The Department of Justice was very clear,” said Smith. “The product will not be diverted out of state and it’s not going to fall into the hands of kids and other places in the illicit market.”

Dante Jones, a consultant for pot entrepreneurs, expressed some concern at one of the other major points in the research. Three counties — King, Pierce and Snohomish — consume half of the state’s marijuana. He said he believes the state will need a lot more stores, especially in the Seattle area, where only 21 will be allowed under current rules.

“I understand how the Liquor Control Board spread it around the state, and for that we’re happy that all corners of the state have access, but at the same time there is a large population in and around this area, and we need the stores able to support that.”

The state says that could change down the line. Right now, it only expects to capture 25 percent of the marijuana market in the first year.