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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 — Recreational marijuana is legal in Washington and in Colorado and some predict other states are going to jump on the bandwagon.

The Huffington Post reports that legal marijuana market is growing so fast that it could soon outpace the expansion of the global smartphone market.  Researchers found as much as $1.43 billion worth of legal marijuana will be sold this year and think sales will hit $2.34 billion in 2014.

The newspaper says that’s a growth rate of 64 percent, compared to the U.S. smartphone market, which is growing at an annual rate of 7.3 percent.

Medical marijuana has been legalizedl in 20 states. Recreational pot sales haven’t even begun yet in Washington and Colorado.  According to the Huffington Post report, bankers estimate that sales in Colorado alone will top $359 million.


Local News

Would-be pot producers run into obstacles in state

By Maria L. La Ganga

Los Angeles Times

SEATTLE — When Washington state voters legalized recreational marijuana a year ago, Jeff Stewart saw an opportunity: After all, he figured, it’s the rare industry that’s born overnight with proven demand and little competition.

CR Douglas: New pot rules would outlaw dispensariesBut then the 37-year-old tech worker tried to find a warehouse where he could grow about 10,000 square feet of pot plants.

What he found was that some cities in the Evergreen State had imposed moratoriums to keep out recreational pot while the foundation is being laid for the new industry. Others have banned marijuana outright, although “dry” regions are prohibited.

The result? A lawsuit in the making, one that could pit local control against sweeping social change.

Lesson No. 1 for prospective pot entrepreneurs like Stewart: it is not enough to get a license from the Washington State Liquor Control Board, in itself an arduous process.

Washington is one of only two states that legalized recreational marijuana last year with ballot measures. As the state cobbles together its new marketplace, there is a scramble to take advantage of a chance to produce, process and sell the previously prohibited substance. But some are running into obstacles.

After four months of searching, Stewart and his partners have a line on a landlord who may be willing to rent in a city that will allow recreational pot production. He will not give the location, because he does not want others to poach the prospective property.

He has yet to sign a lease, and time is running out. The one-month window for state marijuana business license applications begins Nov. 18. At least a tentative address is required.

“We talked to 15 cities,” Stewart said. “Six had moratoriums” to keep recreational pot out of their boundaries for six to eight months — long after the first state application period ends. No one knows when a possible second application period might occur.

“Woodinville was a flat ‘No,’” Stewart said.

Located in the heart of the Seattle-area wine country, Woodinville is familiar with mood-altering substances. Its nearly 100 wineries — and nearby breweries and distilleries — draw about 300,000 visitors a year.

But all of that liquid relaxation does not mean the smokable sort is welcome along the Sammamish River. In February 2012, the City Council voted to ban collective gardens and dispensaries for medical marijuana, which has been legal statewide since 1998.

City officials say every precinct in the affluent town of about 11,000 people voted in favor of Initiative 502, which legalized party pot in 2012. But in early October, the Woodinville council ordered the city attorney to draft an ordinance prohibiting recreational marijuana. The measure will be considered at an upcoming meeting.

The council’s heated discussion encompassed “the message to our youth,” the effects of marijuana on the brain, the benefits of pot tourism and the need to create a “walkable city” so inebriates of any stripe stay out of their cars.

“We’re only five square miles in Woodinville,” said Deputy Mayor Liz Aspen during the Oct. 8 meeting. “I’m not sure why we would need an outlet for any kind of marijuana. I’m happy to let them go to Redmond or Kirkland or Bothell to get their fix.”

The same night Woodinville officials were debating the merits of a recreational pot ban, the Liquor Control Board was holding a hearing on rules to regulate the marijuana market, which is expected to kick off early next year.

All pot operations must be licensed and at least 1,000 feet from schools, child-care centers, libraries and parks. Pot must be sold in child-proof containers and tested for strength and purity.

The board will license 334 retail outlets, apportioned by population and geography. Woodinville was not selected as a retail site, but someone could still apply for an “at large” license there or seek permission to grow or process pot in the city’s industrial zones.

Stewart, who lives in North Seattle, was one of several who complained during the long and angry meeting, only to be told that local government hurdles were prohibited under I-502. The circular discussion seemed to appease no one.

David Chartrand, with Everett-based Houston Herbals: “What about cities putting moratoriums on … is the board doing anything about that?”

Karen McCall, rules coordinator for the Liquor Control Board: “The board will not deny a license based on a local authority…. The problem is, you go to the local authority, and they say, ‘We don’t give out business licenses.’”

Chartrand: “So we have to take them to court?”

Chris Marr, Liquor Control Board member: “We can’t have a dry county.” And, “There has to be provided reasonable accommodation to operate these businesses.” And finally, “All of us should go back and work with our jurisdictions and help them do the right thing.”

But “the right thing” is in the eye of the beholder.

Consider the city of Kent. The onetime “Lettuce Capital of the World” is now a manufacturing and distribution hub southeast of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, filled with strip malls and warehouses that could double as indoor marijuana grow sites.

Except for one small detail: The City Council voted in 2012 to ban medical marijuana collective gardens, calling them a “public nuisance.” In July, the council decided not to vote on further marijuana ordinances, figuring its medical marijuana ban also prohibited recreational pot.

The Liquor Control Board begs to differ. The agency has ruled that three of the state’s retail marijuana stores will be within Kent’s boundaries.

Kent has already been sued by a group of cannabis enthusiasts for banning medical marijuana. The city won in a lower court, but that ruling is on appeal. A decision is not expected until summer, when the recreational market should be up and running.

One of the plaintiffs, John Worthington, who says he smokes pot to help allay chronic hip and back pain, does not believe Kent has the authority to ban marijuana in opposition to state regulations. The City Council, he said, “took matters into their own hands and decided to see how many of us potheads could get our acts together and stop them.”

But Pat Fitzpatrick, acting city attorney, notes that marijuana is a controlled substance, regardless of Justice Department promises that Washington state and Colorado may build pot markets under certain tight restrictions.

“Many cities do not wish to be guinea pigs for this experiment by allowing for [marijuana] uses,” Fitzpatrick said in an email. “They do not want to wake up in a decade to realize that a horrible mistake has been made.”

Fitzpatrick said the “multimillion-dollar question” was whether the state could force cities to violate federal law.

“Chances are, some city is going to go to court” over recreational marijuana and local bans, he said. “My hope is that it will not be Kent.”

WHITE SALMON, Wash. — A small town in southwest Washington wants to get into the pot business in an attempt to bolster its bottom line.

The park-n-ride parking lot along Highway 14 is where city officials say they’d open a city-owned pot retail store. The White Salmon City Council shot down the idea on Monday night but there are some residents that hope the council will reconsider

pot“If they’re going to be there, at least let’s use the money to the public advantage,” Mayor David Poucher said.

Only a few thousand people live in White Salmon. It’s a small community living in the shadow of Mount Hood on the Oregon border. Like most small towns, White Salmon is looking for ways to put money in the bank.

“We lost the liquor tax money, we lost the car tax money, we lost a lot of different things,” Poucher said.

Klickitat County will be getting a total of four retail pot licenses and Poucher says that’s a perfect opportunity to raise cash for the city.

“Funding police department, the fire department, and public health,” said Poucher. “There’s no addiction control, there isn’t any rehab or anything else in this part of the county, and this would have been an opportunity to do it.”

It would cost around $10,000 to get the thing up and running, and there’s no guarantee the city fathers would win the permit. But the mayor knows there’s a potentially huge customer base not far away.

“I think there’s a lot of people on the Oregon side that have friends in Washington,” said Poucher.

But not everyone in town wants the city to be the local marijuana dealer.

“I still don’t see where it boils down to the responsibility of the city,” said resident Richard Johnson.

“I think that shows that our community is open-minded,” said mother Amy Hayes.  “The fact that the City Council voted a tie, that was kind of surprising to me and I think that’s good. I think people are taking a little time to process it, but I think we’re moving faster than most parts of the state.”

But White Salmon isn’t alone. The city of North Bonneville is also planning to apply for its own permit.

The City Council in White Salmon meets again next week where they could vote on the proposal all over again.

pot1BELLEVUE — The Bellevue City Council has approved interim zoning for recreational pot businesses, limiting production and processing to light industrial areas and stores to where former state liquor stores were located, the Seattle Times reported Tuesday.

The Bellevue City Council voted 5-1 on the issue Monday night.

The Washington State Liquor Control Board has allocated four retail pot store licenses for Bellevue, the Times noted. Sales are expected to begin by next summer.



OLYMPIA — The Washington State Liquor Control Board proposed new rules Monday that would effectively outlaw the medical marijuana dispensaries when the new recreational pot stores start opening next year.

Many believe the two systems can’t coexist, given that the new stores will be heavily regulated and taxed while the dispensaries have little, if any, oversight.

“What we’re trying to do is limit abuse of the medical marijuana system,” said Mikhail Carpenter, spokesman for the Liquor Control Board.  “The medical marijuana system should exist for people who are truly sick and truly need medicine.  It shouldn’t be for people who are looking for recreational marijuana.”

This is the day many medical marijuana patients and activists had feared was coming ever since the passage of Initiative 502 last year. They have long thought they were going to get squeezed out by the new pot stores.

“What they’re doing is they’re trying to eliminate medical,” said Steve Sarich of the Cannabis Action Coalition.  He argues “greed” is what was behind the rule to get rid of dispensaries.

“What better way to get rid of the competition, you just make them illegal again,” Sarich said.  “We are not going to make 200,000 patients in the state of Washington criminals again.  That is not what the voters voted for.”

Monday’s rules from the Liquor Control Board are a first stab, a draft, at trying to reconcile these two systems, medical and recreational.  The concern is that keeping them separate will be untenable.  That it won’t work.  That if you don’t shut down the dispensaries, new recreational users will just use them to get their pot, since it’s likely to be cheaper, and they are allowed to buy more.

The draft recommendations that were issued Monday would also outlaw any home grows even for medical marijuana patients.

“There will be a safe and consistent supply of tested, you know, labeled marijuana available for people,” said Carpenter.

Sarich argued the problems with the current system can be corrected without getting rid of the dispensaries.

“You don’t have to eliminate medical marijuana because some people are cheating.  There’s people cheating the system in every facet,” he said.  “If they were required by law to prove that they had a qualifying condition, then that problem would go away.”

Sarich also objects to the new rule that would apply I-502′s hefty tax to medical marijuana users.

“We do not tax food in this state, we do not tax medicine in this state,” he said.  “And voters said that cannabis is medicine.”

The leader of last year’s I-502 said having current medical marijuana patients go to the new pot stores instead of the dispensaries will be a better system.

“What Initiative 502 does for patients is offer them something that they haven’t had before, which is quality control over the product that is being sold to them,” said Alison Holcomb of the ACLU of Washington.  “They’re going to know who’s growing it, where it came from.  It’ll be tested. They’ll have information about pesticides.  And it will be available to them whenever they want it in a licensed store that’s legal under the law.  They won’t have to worry about crossing the threshold and getting arrested.”

The Liquor Control Board will be taking public comment on these rules over the next several weeks.  Once members have them finalized, they will be given to the Legislature in January for approval.

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.


Courtesy LA Times

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

*Warning labels

*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.

Local News

Denver considers bringing the smell of criminality to some pot use

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.

pot1The 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.