Q13 FOX Season of Giving

Local budtenders, customers react to Justice Department’s flip on legal pot

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TACOMA, Wash. – The legal marijuana business employs thousands of people across our state.

So, what do they have to say about federal action regarding prosecution in states where marijuana is legal?

It’s not just the people working in the pot business who are concerned, it’s also their customers.

Some worry the entire industry could return to the black market where the criminal element comes out on top.

“We’re not behind the counter getting high in the back or smoking weed, these are actual jobs,” said Errol Franada, who works at Tacoma’s Urban Bud store on South 24th Street.

“I don’t feel like I’m doing anything wrong, I’m not hurting anyone. I’m paying taxes, I’m not taking any backdoors or shortcuts, I’m working just as hard as the next person,” he said.

“I actually left my job to come here,” said budtender Crystal Contreras.

She hopes the new directive from the DOJ doesn’t mean she’ll have to be looking for new work.

“Hopefully they do come around and keep this industry going and keep it up,” she said.

“The federal government seems to be subverting the will of the voters of Washington,” said Eric Gaston.

Gaston says he not only he runs a pot retail stop, he’s a founding member of a legal marijuana trade organization.

He’s got nearly 100 people on his payroll and for now he’s telling them to stay the course.

“I’m hopeful that they’re going to continue to allow us to build, grow and be successful. But yeah, I’m a little worried,” he said.

“I got a bag of Snoop’s Dream, it’s about an eighth."

Christopher Reid says he bought a bag for 20 bucks but he worries he’ll pay more and won’t know where his product comes from if the feds crack down.

“We’ve been doing a great job regulating pot sales in Washington, why can’t we continue to do what we’ve been doing?” he asked.

“It helped my mom when she had cancer it helps people with disease, it helps people with sleep, everything,” said James Haynes.

Haynes says he knows people who smoke marijuana to help with anxiety and other issues.

But he now worries the people many count on for pot could be facing federal charges – even if the green is legal in the Evergreen State.

“That’s not right,” he said. “Nobody should be arrested for trying to work a job.”

Legal marijuana employees say there is little customers can do if the feds crack down.

But some of the employees say they have learned valuable skills in this business that can translate to jobs in other industries.