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SEATTLE — It’s official.
The state of Washington has formally adopted new rules for recreational marijuana — how and where it can be grown, sold and distributed. The state Liquor Control Board predicts a 30-day licensing window for growers and sellers to open on Nov. 18.
Security is a big concern and rightfully so.
Earth Alternative Medicine, a medical marijuana collective in Lacey, just celebrated its grand opening — and it was closed for business Wednesday after an armed robbery Tuesday night.
Police say three armed men busted in, locked employees in a bathroom, detained three customers. They stole marijuana and other items and, as they ran from the store, one of the suspects opened fire. Fortunately, no one was hurt.
“That’s completely ridiculous. This is supposed to be a really legitimate business here,” medical marijuana patient Dan Doscher said.
Doscher is a patient who just found out about the robbery.
For now he’ll have to get his medicine somewhere else.
“Usually they have pretty good security but, I mean, if somebody just barges in and they have a gun, then what are you really going to do?” Doscher asked.
The robbery comes just as the state formally adopted rules for how and where recreational marijuana can be grown, sold, distributed and consumed once stores open next year.
“What the Liquor Control Board did in this last iteration of the rules is really fill out the details,” I-502 author Alison Holcomb said.
*There’s a 3 license limit per applicant to prevent pot monopolies
*Background checks are required
*Seed-to-sale tracking for all product
*Child resistant packaging
*No shop can be located within 1,000 feet of a school, playground or park.
Then there’s the issue of security.
“The rules are very specific about video cameras that have to monitor the premises for 24 hours, seven days a week,” Holcomb said.
“The stores have to be locked down with security measures, with safes to contain cash and marijuana. So, we’re talking about very secure facilities,” Holcomb said.
“With any business you run risk of people coming in and robbing you,” Natural 7 Collective co-owner Angelisa Stansberry said.
Stansberry runs the Natural 7 collective in Lacey.
They’ve taken numerous steps to minimize the risk and the danger to employees and customers.
She calls the efforts just part of doing business.
“Panic buttons, security on duty, having a solid relationship with our local police department, also our cameras are set up so we know exactly who is coming in and out. We have a secure entry way so no one is getting through our shop at all,” Stansberry said.
The rules have been subject to great debate, research, and the public was heard at town hall meetings.
Now that the rules are official, already municipalities around the country and around the world are looking at how Colorado and Washington state do things so they can develop their own rules based on what works here.
We can also expect a hefty tax once the first recreational marijuana sales begin in the middle of next year.
OLYMPIA — The Washington State Liquor Control Board on Wednesday adopted the proposed rules for implementing Initiative 502, the measure that legalizes the production, sale and use of marijuana. By week’s end the board will file the “CR103″ — the formal procedure for adoption of proposed rules – which is the final step in the rulemaking process.
The filing of the CR103 form is the final step before licenses and permits can be handed to growers and retailers, officials said. The agency predicts a 30-day licensing window for growers and sellers to open on Nov. 18.
In a statement, officials with the WSLC said the rules submitted for final approval are a “reflection of more than 10 months of work.”
“The rules achieve the Board’s stated goal of implementing a tightly regulated and controlled recreational marijuana market. They also align with the Department of Justice’s stated areas of concern by addressing out-of-state diversion of product, traceability of product from start to sale, youth access and other public and consumer safety concerns.”
The latest changes to the rules came earlier this month, when state regulators altered wording to modify the distance marijuana stores could operate near schools.
The WSLCB is holding a series of seven educational seminars across the state to inform potential applicants on laws and regulations. For more information on the seminars, click here.
By Michael Muskal
Los Angeles Times
DENVER — The Mile High City is having a tough time living up to its name.
Denver is considering a city ordinance that would impose penalties of up to a year in jail and a fine of $999 for “openly” using small amounts of marijuana in public places. The ordinance notes that openly is defined as being perceptible through sight or smell so that a whiff of secondhand smoke could put someone is jeopardy.
The ordinance is being proposed as Colorado is coming to grips with how to deal with last fall’s action by voters to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Colorado and Washington became the first U.S. states to legalize the possession and use of small amounts of pot for recreational purposes.
Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, but the U.S. Department of Justice has said the federal government will not target users if they comply with Colorado and Washington state laws. Colorado lawmakers have crafted statewide rules governing the retail sale of pot including licensing and taxation of vendors. But the open use of marijuana is an area in which some local governments can choose to make rules.
“This proposed ordinance clearly communicates what our residents and visitors are and are not allowed to do in public. It respects the will of the voters, who last year approved Amendment 64, which allows people over 21 to have and consume a small amount of marijuana. It also ensures that our public spaces remain enjoyable for residents, families and tourists,” Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, a supporter, said last week.
The ordinance would also specifically prohibit the possession, use and sale of marijuana on the 16th Street Mall, the well-trafficked pedestrian and transit street known for its buskers. The ordinance exempts medical marijuana and any pot purchased from a store on the Mall, if one opens when the marijuana usage laws go into effect in January.
The ordinance is being opposed by the Colorado chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which calls the proposal “ill-advised, unnecessary and unconstitutional.”
“The ordinance, as proposed, is an irrational overreach that will inevitably result in unnecessary police-community confrontations. Voters made it clear last year that law enforcement time and resources should not be spent pursuing low-level marijuana arrests,” the group’s legal director, Mark Silverstein, said last week in a prepared statement.
“Two out of three Denver voters agreed that marijuana should be legalized but regulated like alcohol. This proposed ordinance does not regulate marijuana like alcohol: no one risks a year in jail for drinking a beer in their fenced back yard, yet this ordinance would make criminals once again of persons who enjoy a legal joint on their back porch, if anyone can see or smell from a public area or a nearby property. The proposed ordinance also violates the Colorado Constitution by making it a crime to carry a legal product in your pocket if you are walking on the Sixteenth Street Mall,” he argued.
“It’s hard to read this proposal and not wonder what they’ve been smoking up at City Hall,” he said.
By Jenny Deam
Los Angeles Times
SPRINGFIELD, Colo. — Out near a lonely highway southwest of town, a farmer’s son stuck some seeds in the ground last spring to see what would happen. What he pulled from the soil made history and has sown new hope for struggling farmers both here and across the nation.
Last weekend, 41-year-old Ryan Loflin, a fifth-generation Coloradan, along with an enthusiastic crew of 45 volunteers, harvested what is being called the first U.S. crop of commercial hemp in more than half a century.
Hemp is the mild-mannered sister of marijuana, springing from the same tall, leafy plant family. Although it is often mistaken for its more potent sibling, hemp has only a tiny trace of the buzz-worthy chemical THC found in marijuana. Highly marketable, hemp’s seeds, roots, stalks, fibers and oil are used for products including soap, clothing and construction materials. A company in Boulder even sells hemp ice cream.
It grows easily here, needing less water in this flatland of drought and wind. Loflin’s father, John, has made his living coaxing corn, wheat and alfalfa from the soil since the 1950s. Over the years he has watched the hard life take its toll as storefronts shuttered on Main Street and families moved away. The population here is about 1,500, down nearly 1,000 from a generation ago.
“This could be the miracle crop we have been waiting for,” the elder Loflin says.
There is just this one pesky problem: Like marijuana, hemp is illegal. At least so says the federal government.
“According to the Controlled Substances Act, there is no differentiation between marijuana and hemp,” says Dawn Dearden, a spokeswoman for the Drug Enforcement Administration in Washington, D.C. She says the federal law banning the two plants has been on the books since it was signed by President Nixon in 1970.
Last year things got tricky. Colorado, along with Washington state, legalized recreational marijuana. When a state law conflicts with a federal law, the feds win. But in the case of small-scale marijuana use, federal authorities have been advised to back off, letting local jurisdictions handle the issue through regulation, according to a recent Justice Department memo.
Hemp was legalized under Colorado’s Amendment 64, but more as an afterthought, says Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp, a national advocacy group. State lawmakers were directed to come up with a plan to regulate hemp farming, and that authority was given to the Colorado Department of Agriculture.
“It should not be treated like a drug, it should be treated like corn,” says state Sen. Gail Schwartz, a Democrat and chair of the Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee.
For years hemp was widely grown in this country, even promoted by the government during World War II. But it eventually fell out of favor, and the last known commercial harvest was in Wisconsin in 1957.
Colorado’s rules for hemp farming are still being determined and will not go into effect until next year.
Ryan Loflin knows he jumped the gun with his harvest but is unapologetic. “I like to be first,” he says. “Someone needs to take this ball and run.”
The father of two has never been arrested in his life, and searches for a family-friendly adjective for the federal law equating marijuana with hemp. He settles on “comical.”
After Amendment 64 passed, he thought of his father’s struggle, knowing hemp could potentially bring three times the profit of wheat. The big problem was — and is — getting hold of the seeds, which are illegal in this country. He is vague about how he was able to smuggle 1,500 pounds of hemp seed from Canada, Europe and China.
Last year he grew about 50 seedlings at his home in Crested Butte. He transplanted them as well as sowing the rest of his seeds on a 60-acre plot in Springfield leased from his father.
As fall approached, Loflin considered harvesting the inaugural crop with a combine but quickly found the machinery chewed up too much of the plant. He decided to go old-fashioned and pick by hand. He put out the word on Twitter and Facebook, and help arrived.
Kay Cee Carson came because she had known Loflin since kindergarten and wanted to be part of what she considers a new national movement. She’s still got the blisters. Matt McClain and three others drove 18 hours straight from Los Angeles and camped in tents near the field. His company is launching a hemp clothing line that gets its material from overseas.
“I’m almost 64 years old with a bad back, but I got out there and picked too,” says John Loflin. But both father and son admit they are in a trial-and-error phase because no one really knows how to grow hemp anymore in this country.
Today, the harvested hemp sits in a waist-high pile inside a steel barn. The younger Loflin says it is already spoken for by companies wanting to buy it all, root to stem. He is keeping the seeds for next year, hoping to triple his crop. His father fields calls from farmers in their 70s from across the county who thank him, saying they have wanted to plant hemp for years but never had the nerve.
Of course, not everyone is sold. Mayor Dusty Turner worries that his town’s growing fame comes at too high a price.
“I don’t want to be on the map for anything illegal. Maybe this is the cash crop farmers need. We want economic growth, we want families to move back. It’s just we want to make sure when it does happen it’s legal.”
John Loflin’s 94-year-old mother was worried too, but about the pickers smoking the yield.
“Mom, you don’t smoke hemp,” John remembers telling her.
“Oh,” she replied. “Well, then I hope Ryan gets rich.”
“Yeah, me too,” he said. “Me too.”
BELLEVUE — The suspect arrested in a deadly crash in Bellevue Friday night is being released from the King County Jail, despite what police say was his own admission of smoking pot before the incident and failing a field sobriety test.
Just after 6 p.m. Friday, police say, Caleb J. Floyd, 33, made an illegal left hand turn in front of 23 year-old motorcyclist Blake R. Gaston at NE 10th St. and 102nd Ave. NE in Bellevue.
Court documents show Floyd failed a field sobriety test but blew a 0.00 on a breathalyzer. Police said he told officers he had a medical marijuana card and had smoked about two hours before the crash.
Lynnwood police officer Mark Brinkman, a drug recognition expert , said this is the first vehicular homicide case he is aware of involving only marijuana since the drug was legalized.
“You can’t drive safely while you’re impaired by marijuana. What level you’re impaired is somewhat subjective,” said Brinkman.
The legal limit for pot in our state is five nanograms per milliliter of THC in the blood. Floyd’s blood tests are not back yet, but those figures have come under fire from medical marijuana activists.
“Those who use a lot of marijuana may have that higher level in their blood but not be impaired objectively, and those who don’t use as much might be quite impaired but have a lower limit in their blood,” said state Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, who has pushed for tougher DUI laws.
Regardless of blood tests or breathalyzers, investigators look for signs of impairment in any serious crash. Brinkman teaches police what to look for when they suspect someone is stoned.
“We’ll have them open their mouth. A lot of times you may see the taste buds on the tongue raised up. Their short-term memory is affected by the cannabis so they’ll forget the instructions and take the wrong number of steps,” said Brinkman.
“In this case, if the drug recognition expert found he was impaired, irrespective of what was in his blood, that would hold up in court,” Goodman claimed.
Goodman is watching this case closely to see if the Legislature needs to consider changes to the law.
“There is controversy about this five nanogram limit. We’re not going to amend it at this time. It is the law and see how it works but there is a question if it’s an accurate level of impairment,” said Goodman.
There are no conditions of release for Floyd, so he is out with no bail and is free to drive until any charges are filed.
Goodman said had this case involved alcohol and there was a breathalyzer, the suspect would likely be charged at this point.
SEATTLE — When legal marijuana shops begin opening up in Washington state, there will be 21 licensed stores in Seattle, but City Attorney Pete Holmes doesn’t think that’s enough.
“We need to make sure we’re providing for the anticipated demand,” Holmes said.
Holmes was one of the sponsors of Initiative 502, which legalized marijuana in the state. He is worried that if the legal supply is too small, criminal drug dealers will still be able to make a profit.
“I think the average person that wants to enjoy cannabis would much prefer going to a well-lit, state regulated store,” Holmes said. “I think we’re going to find that people are anxious for that opportunity.”
The Liquor Control Board said it’s done the research and came up with 21 stores in Seattle, based on population and the prediction that about 25 percent of marijuana users are expected to get their pot from those stores the first year they are open.
But finding somewhere to put those 21 legal stores isn’t going to be easy. State rules say pot shops can’t be within 1,000 feet of places where children gather like schools, parks or libraries. In a dense city like Seattle, that leaves just a few small pockets for pot vendors to set up shop.
Holmes also wants the board to consider loosening up the rules for where stores can be, so people have access in their neighborhood.
“Marijuana has been illegal for nearly a century and the notion that one vote has shifted us away from this failed prohibition policy into a legalized regulated market is astonishing,” Holmes said. “It’s a freedom that we really have to guard responsibly.”
SEATTLE — As Washington and Colorado navigate the uncharted waters of legalized pot, one city finally has an answer to people asking, “What’s that smell?” Now, Denver is embracing a new tool to sniff out odor complaints near marijuana grows — the Nasal Ranger.
The portable device augments the human sense of smell to determine if an odor is strong enough to warrant a fine.
High Times compares the tool’s appearance to a megaphone or radar gun. A mask is placed over the user’s nose, enabling the person to detect the intensity of odor by filtering out odorous air.
Denver’s Department of Environment Health hopes the Nasal Ranger can help sift through a growing number of complaints about marijuana odors.
In the Seattle area, the answer to dealing with excessive pot odors is not as clear. The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, which is designated to specifically handle odors, says there’s nothing they can do since the agency doesn’t issue permits for marijuana grows, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The agency has no plans to use the Nasal Ranger.
Read more from the P.I. here.
SEATTLE — Legalized pot in Washington state is expected to be a multimillion dollar industry when the State Liquor Control Board licensed shops, farms, grow ops and processing facilities open their doors early next year. But should the location of these businesses be public? It’s a question that divides proprietors, city officials and the public.
“There’s no value in anybody knowing where the gold is stashed, if you will,” Jake Dimmock said.
Dimmock owns the Northwest Patient Resource Center in West Seattle, part of the Cannabis Coalition for Standards and Ethics. He says he runs a transparent business and he believes the industry should be transparent as well but he has concerns about security and crime.
“You wouldn’t want to have everyone know where the gold is. It’s been stealth up until now. I think anytime someone knows where the gold is, you would be setting yourself up for robbery or things like that,” Dimmock said.
Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes sees things a bit differently. He also sits on the State Sunshine Committee charged with reviewing exemptions to the state’s public records act, and there have been exemptions before.
The question is, Should the pot industry be exempt from the act? Holmes says no.
“The Liquor Control Board has been very careful about making sure that all of these facilities have adequate security and that really shouldn’t be an issue. I believe in transparency and people have a right to know where these facilities are,” Holmes said.
One big problem is that it will, initially at least, be a cash-only business, the same as current medical marijuana shops and dispensaries.
Opponents of open records said that will continue to make these businesses the targets of criminals, at least until federal law changes and allows these businesses to use credit cards and the banking system.
For now it’s wait and see, but most of the people we spoke with say that people’s right to know should take precedent.
“I think that is should absolutely be public knowledge. The location, who has access to these shops. I mean it seems like it’s probably everybody, just because now it’s a law that’s open in Washington,” open records supporter Ryan Clark said.