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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 — Smoking a joint in public in Seattle could cost you a $27 fine.

pot4The Seattle City Council adopted legislation Monday setting fines on smoking marijuana in public at the same level as public consumption of alcohol — $27.

The legislation said the Seattle Police Department will  issue a warning to offenders “whenever practical” before issuing a citation.  The bill requires SPD to monitor enforcement by age, race, sex and locations of any citations, so the City Council can evaluate whether the law is being equitably enforced. The ordinance goes into effect 30 days after it is signed into law by the executive.

“When I-502 legalized recreational marijuana use in Washington state, it also created a fine for consuming marijuana in public. The best long-term protection for legal marijuana is to move forward responsibly. Setting a reasonable fine, noting officers will be giving warnings, and studying the impacts strikes a good balance,” said City Councilman Nick Licata, chairman of the Housing, Human Services, Health and Culture Committee.  “This legislation adopts state law.”

In 2012, Washington voters approved I-502 legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana, and directing the Liquor Control Board to develop a process for regulating marijuana production, processing, selling, and delivery.  I-502 includes a provision creating a civil infraction for consuming marijuana in public, with a fine up to $50.

 

Local News
12/13/13

Tracking legal pot in Washington

The state will soon begin issuing licenses to legal pot producers and sellers. But to keep marijuana from being sold illegally and being taken out of state, the Liquor Control Board wants to know, down to the leaf, where all of this new product is going.

BioTrackTHC, a Florida company, has designed a software system to track marijuana from seed to sale.

“This is not just plant tracking, this is not just seed to harvest,” said Patrick Vo, CFO at BioTrackTHC. “This is from the moment a marijuana plant is created all the way to point of sale to the consumer.”

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Each plant, each strain is given a unique bar code that can be traced and followed by individual pot businesses and the state.

That’s important to the State Liquor Control Board, which is under pressure from the feds to make sure recreational pot in our state can be traced, and is not diverted to the black market, sold to minors, or goes out of state.

“The Department of Justice was very clear with the state that this product can not be diverted,” said Brian Smith, with the Liquor Control Board. “If Washington’s laboratory experiment is going to go forward with this legalized recreational marijuana, you’re going to have to control it.”

The state is now working with BioTrackTHC to create a system that will do that. They say when it’s in place, it can record growth, weight and strain of the plants, and even the route and time it takes to transport to a retail store.

It will be the first system of its type in the US, and could lay the groundwork for other states if and when they decide to legalize marijuana.

marijuana310x177WASHINGTON, D.C. — It’s been about three months since the Department of Justice announced they’ll stand down on enforcing federal law in well-regulated states where marijuana is legal.

Officials say the next hurdle for recreational marijuana is the enforcement of federal banking laws. Legitimate marijuana businesses in Washington and Colorado will be forced to operate on a cash-only basis.

Representative Denny Heck (D) questioned Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on the subject.

Heck said marijuana is projected to be a $1 billion a year industry in Washington state. He is concerned that such a large amount of money floating around in all cash is a threat to public safety.

“It is, in fact, sir, an open invitation, it’s setting out the welcome mat to organized crime and disorganized crime,” Heck said. “It’s setting out the welcome mat for tax avoidance, it is an open invitation to all sorts of activities which will render us and our communities and our neighborhoods less safe.”

Lew said he recognizes the serious challenges that states face when federal and state laws are not consistent.

Local News
12/11/13

State ready to ban pot in bars

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OLYMPIA — The state of Washington is getting ready to clamp down on bars and restaurants that allow customers to smoke pot.

A bar owner in Olympia beleives he is the target of the proposed rule. Frank Schnaar, who owns Frankie’s Sports Pub spoke to the Liquor Control Board during a public hearing on the proposed rule change.

Ever since marijuana became legal in the state, Schnaar has been allowing people to light up in his upstairs bar, which he calls a private club. He beleives allowing pot smokers at his place may have actually saved his business.

“My food order is up 40 percent, it`s huge,” said Schnaar. “People who smoke marijuana like to eat.”

But his customers could be out in the cold if the state changes the rules about smoking marijuana in bars and restaurants.

Chris Marr, a member on the Liquor Control Board, said it’s clear in the 502 law legalizing pot, “That you can`t smoke in public. We`re reflecting that in the new rule.”

The new rule would make it illegal to smoke pot any place with a liquor license.

Brian Smith, a LCB spokesperson, said Schnaar’s pub, “Holds a restaurant license and restaurants are public places.”

Schnaar, whose bar is less than a mile from the board’s headquarters, believes he’s being singled out, and no matter what the board votes next week, he’ll continue to let people light up in his place.

“I don’t fear my government and I sure as Hell am not going to fear the Liquor Control Board,” said Schnaar. “I sell for them. Bars keep the board in business.”

Local News
12/11/13

New pot rules: Board considers changes

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The Washington State Liquor Control Board will discuss changes to rules around marijuana at it’s Wednesday morning meeting.

Some of those changes could be to current medical marijuana rules. The board is also likely to recommend amending a rule and making it illegal to allow pot smoking in any establishment with a liquor license.

Just down the street from the Liquor Control Board in Olympia, Frankie’s Sports pub has allowed smoking in it’s upstairs bar because it considers that a private club, but if board members pass a new rules, lighting up at Frankie’s would be outlawed.

Local News
12/06/13

Hundreds toke up in Seattle on anniversary of pot legalization

SEATTLE — Beneath Seattle’s iconic Space Needle, hundreds of people saluted the one-year anniversary of the legalization of marijuana in the state by toking up at an organized pot party.

Marijuana activist Ben Livingston knew people would be back to light up on the anniversary of pot legalization, so he obtained a city permit and organized a closed-off area away from the more populated spots at Seattle Center. His permit allowed for up to 500 people to attend his ‘party.’

“It seemed like a pretty simple solution so that’s what I’ve offered and that’s what we’re doing,” said Livingston.

Ba2At52CcAAg5P4The city agreed to it for one day. But there has been push-back.

Winterfest, a family celebration, is also under way at the center. A group of pediatricians from Seattle Children’s Hospital sent a letter to the city urging it to stop the pot party, and some parents were also concerned.

 “As a mom of a 3-year-old, it’s not something I would want my child to see or be involved in,” said Tammy Dahlquist, who was at Winterfest with her daughter.

 Pot activists, however, said people need to get used to the new reality in Washington state.

 John Davis, one of the leaders in this new industry, said there have been a lot of milestones over the last year. The Washington State Liquor Control Board created rules to try and keep legal pot away from children, while beginning the process of granting state business licenses for growing, processing, and selling pot. And, most importantly he said, federal officials vowed to back off.

 “They are going to allow the experiment to go forward,” said Davis. “I think that’s historic, and, really, we in the industry feel that sense of history.”

 Activists are still hoping for some changes to the law, including creating public spaces where people can legally smoke marijuana. That was happening for at least one day on this one-year anniversary.

 “Now we’ve got 364 other days,” said Livingston. “But it’s a start.

“This is the beginning of the conversation,” he said.

Local News
12/06/13

Deadline for applying for pot business license extended 24 hours

REDMOND RIDGE POTOLYMPIA — The Washington State Liquor Control Board announced Friday it will extend the time people may apply for a marijuana business license by 24 hours — to 5 p.m. on Dec. 20.

It had originally been slated to close at 5 p.m. on Dec. 19.

The board said the move is necessary to “conform to the rules’ effective date according to the state Code Reviser. The effective date of the rules was Nov. 21. Therefore, the 30-day application window will now close Friday, December 20, 2013, at 5:00 p.m.”

 

 

SEATTLE — The King County Council tabled a proposed rezoning ordinance that could have paved the way for a marijuana processing facility in Redmond Ridge.

The council held a public hearing Monday, and dozens of residents spoke up in opposition to the rezoning plan.  The big concern was where the facility would go.  The proposed site is along 231st Way Southeast in Redmond Ridge.  A company named Red Ridge has already applied for the license to operate there.

photoMany residents, including Virginia Onu, who has called Redmond Ridge home since 2004, worries this could put her children in danger.

“It doesn’t belong near elementary schools, day cares, after-school programs, it doesn’t belong in our neighborhoods, there is a time and place,” Onu said.

The location is beyond a required 1,000-foot buffer from schools and parks.  Republican state Sen. Andy Hill, who represents Legislative District 45  and lives in Redmond Ridge, said he worries the facility would bring in the wrong crowd and adversely affect property values.

“When you’ve got a product that’s going to have a 75 percent tax placed on it and a viable black market that would love to get its hands on that product tax-free and sell it, my concern is having a processing plant there is going to be a huge magnet for crime,” Hill said.

The King County Council will discuss the plan further at a council meeting set for Monday, Dec. 9.

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