Archive for the ‘Washington’ category

Washington: Over 1,300 Applications Submitted So Far By Those Seeking To Operate Commercial Marijuana Businesses

December 4th, 2013

Washington state regulators are presently reviewing over 1,300 applications from would-be entrepreneurs seeking to engage in the state-licensed production and/or sale of cannabis and cannabis-infused products to those age 21 and over. Regulators began accepting applications for licenses in mid-November and will continue accepting applications until December 19.

According to a review of applications by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper, 635 applications have been submitted by those seeking commercial growing licenses and 461 applications have been submitted by those seeking to produce cannabis-infused products. Two-hundred and thirty applicants are seeking licenses to operate retail cannabis outlets.

Regulators may license the operation of up to 334 marijuana retail stores. There is no limit on the number of commercial cannabis growers or producers that may be licensed. Licensed facilities are anticipated to begin operating in Washington early-to-mid 2014.

In Colorado, regulators began accepting similar applications for commercial cannabis licenses in October. Regulators accepted 136 applications that month from applicants seeking to operate retail marijuana stores — the first of which was approved in late November. Licensed cannabis operations are anticipated to be operational in Colorado on January 1, 2014.

American Medical Association Reconsidering Marijuana Prohibition

November 20th, 2013

On Tuesday, the American Medical Associationama announced that while they still consider marijuana a dangerous drug and a public health concern, federal efforts to curb marijuana use are ineffective. The organization recommended continuing the criminalization of marijuana sales but suggested that marijuana use be treated with a public health approach rather than incarceration. The AMA also stated that they would be paying close attention to Colorado and Washington as they begin to implement regulated cultivation and retail marijuana sales.

“We are sorry to hear they wish to stay the course in enforcing this failed policy, but we are pleased to hear they are interested in reviewing the potential benefits of the laws passed in Colorado and Washington to regulate marijuana like alcohol,” said Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Any objective analysis of marijuana will confirm that it is far less harmful than alcohol. If the AMA is truly concerned about public health and safety, it should support a policy in which adults are able to make the safer choice to use marijuana instead of alcohol.”

Most Americans agree that marijuana is safer than alcohol and should be treated as such. The AMA is quite right that incarcerating marijuana users fails to curb use and creates more harm to the individual and society. Part of treating marijuana as a public health issue, however, is removing the marijuana market from criminal control by regulating retail sales for responsible adults.

Panel OKs Rules for Wash. State’s MJ Industry

October 18th, 2013

Washington became the second U.S. state to adopt rules for the recreational sale of marijuana Wednesday, setting what advocates expect to become a template for the legalization of the drug around the world.

“We feel very proud of what we’re doing,” said Sharon Foster, chairwoman of the Washington Liquor Control Board, as she and her two colleagues approved the rules. “We are making history.”

Washington and Colorado last year legalized the possession of up to an ounce of pot by adults over 21, with voters deciding to set up systems of state-licensed growers, processors and sellers. The measures put state officials in the difficult position of crafting rules for a fledgling industry barred by federal law for more than seven decades.

The liquor board devised the rules after nearly a year of research, debate and planning, including public hearings that drew hundreds of people around the state. The rules cover everything from the security at and size of licensed marijuana gardens, to how many pot stores can open in cities across the state.

Sales are expected to begin by the middle of next year, with supporters in Washington hoping taxed pot might bring the state tens or hundreds of millions of dollars, with much of the revenue directed to public health and drug-abuse prevention.

“What the Liquor Control Board has done is build a template for the responsible regulation of marijuana,” said Alison Holcomb, the Seattle lawyer who drafted Washington’s marijuana initiative. “This is a template that is going to be reviewed by other states, and already is being reviewed by other countries,” including Mexico, Uruguay and Poland.

The board’s members said they had tried to strike a balance between making marijuana accessible enough that legal pot would undermine the black market, but not so accessible that it would threaten public health or safety. The board hopes the sale of legal pot will capture about one-quarter of the total pot market in the state, for starters.

Under the rules, the board will issue licenses for up to 334 marijuana stores across the state, with 21 of them in Seattle – a figure some have questioned as too low, considering the city estimates about 200 medical marijuana dispensaries are operating there. The City Council has passed zoning regulations for pot businesses that would require medical marijuana dispensaries to obtain a state license or stop doing business by 2015.

The rules limit the number of licenses that anyone can hold to three – an attempt by the board to stamp out any dreams of marijuana monopolies before they start. They also prohibit out-of-state investment in pot businesses and require quality-control testing of marijuana by third-party labs. Marijuana must be tracked from seed to sale, and packages must carry warnings about the potential dangers of pot use.

Hilary Bricken, a Seattle lawyer who is advising businesses that hope to obtain marijuana licenses, said her clients largely are content with the regulations, though some are disappointed by the three-license max and the ban on out-of-state money.

“It’s a huge undertaking, and the board has been extremely fair,” she said.

Washington’s rules take effect in one month, and the state plans to begin accepting license applications Nov. 18.

Colorado approved its marijuana industry rules last month. They require businesses to use a state-run online inventory tracking program to document the plant’s journey from seed to sale. Marijuana also must be placed in opaque, child-resistant containers before being taken out of a store, and recreational pot stores won’t be allowed to advertise to people under 21.

The federal government announced earlier this year that it would not sue Washington, Colorado or other states over plans to tax and regulate marijuana sales for adults over 21, provided they address eight federal law enforcement priorities, including keeping marijuana off the black market and keeping it away from kids

Washington’s legal marijuana law includes zoning requirements keeping the businesses away from schools, parks and playgrounds.

Source: Associated Press (Wire)
Author: Gene Johnson, Associated Press
Published: October 16, 2013
Copyright: 2013 The Associated Press

State Pot Officials Can Exhale

October 18th, 2013

With little fanfare in a drab conference room, the state Liquor Control Board adopted rules for a legal marijuana system after 10 months of research, revisions, wrangling with the federal government and wrestling with who-would’ve-imagined questions.

In a unanimous vote Wednesday, state officials charted the course for an experiment that seeks to undercut illegal dealers and launched the next leg of the journey: licensing a recreational-pot industry serving customers with 334 retail stores.

Adults will be able to walk into stores between 8 a.m. and midnight beginning next year to buy small amounts of marijuana products, including buds and brownies produced with state-certified safe levels of pesticides and other chemicals.

“The Washington state Liquor Control Board just built the template for responsible legalization of marijuana,” said Alison Holcomb, chief author of the legal-pot law. Holcomb is traveling to England, Poland and the Netherlands in coming weeks to discuss Washington’s law and rules, and is part of a new panel studying the idea in California.

Liquor-board members predicted a bumpy ride for the next year or so, with further tweaking of the rules likely.

“We might not have it exactly right today,” said board member Chris Marr of the 43 pages of rules. “But we’re in an excellent position to open stores in the middle of next year.”

State officials expect stores to open as early as May. Farms would start growing several months earlier.

In those stores, marked by a single sign that can’t be much bigger than 3 feet by 3 feet under the rules, consumers won’t be able to sample products. They will be able, however, to smell samples through screened containers that do not allow them to touch pot.

Childproof packaging will be required for edible products. All packages will contain warning labels saying marijuana has intoxicating effects and may be habit-forming. Labels will warn consumers of health risks, particularly the risks for pregnant women.

They also will show potency, as measured in percentage of THC, the key psychoactive chemical in pot.

In what state officials hope will be a competitive edge for the recreational system, retail stores will stock only products determined to have safe levels of pesticides, bacteria, moisture and metals.

Randy Simmons, the state marijuana project director, said he’s heard of growers who have added sand to pot to give it additional weight, who have painted pot to make it more desirably purple, and who have spiked buds with hash oil to make them more potent.

Labels will disclose all pesticides used in the growing of the product. Consumers can ask retailers for full test results of chemicals and foreign matter found in products.

State-regulated pot can’t be labeled organic, Simmons said, because the federal government bestows that standard and it still considers marijuana a dangerous drug. But the state is using federal standards for organic products as a model for its rules, he said.

Prices in stores will be determined by the market, not state officials. But state consultants have written about scenarios in which prices could range between $6 and $17 per gram depending on wholesale farm prices and markups.

Consumers will be able to buy pot grown under the sun in outdoor farms, as well as weed grown indoors, which uses more electricity and has a larger carbon footprint.

The rules give an advantage to indoor growers, Simmons acknowledged. That’s because rules limit all farms to a maximum of 30,000 square feet and indoor farms can produce four harvests a year compared with two for outdoor growers in Washington state.

Jeremy Moberg, an Okanogan County activist, and Holcomb, criminal-justice director for the ACLU of Washington, both argued for a more equitable system. They proposed limiting indoor farms to half the size of outdoor farms as one way to level the playing field.

But Simmons said the state wants to make sure it meets the estimated demand for 80 metric tons of pot next year. It might not if it cut the size of indoor farms, he said, and if it doubled the size of outdoor farms it might antagonize federal watchdogs.

Simmons believes demand will increase in time, and when the state expands its supply that will provide an opportunity for outdoor growers to make up ground.

State officials believe the 334 pot stores, which are allocated similarly to the state’s defunct liquor stores, will be enough. But Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes has asked the state to consider allocating more stores to the city than the 21 it has planned.

If there are more qualified applicants in a city than stores allotted, the state will use a lottery system to pick winners, literally by drawing names, Simmons said.

The state can’t use a merit system to award licenses, Simmons said. Unlike contracts, which can rely on merit, state licenses are threshold-based, he said; if applicants meet the standards they qualify for licenses.

There appear to be more than enough entrepreneurs eager to meet the state’s requirements for growers, processors and retailers.

The Liquor Control Board is holding licensing seminars in seven cities this month to inform and advise entrepreneurs about the rules and application process.

Seminars in five cities already are fully booked. In all, of the 2,440 seats available at all seven seminars, 1,991 were taken by Wednesday.

The state on Nov. 18 will open a 30-day window for accepting applications for growing, processing and retail licenses, and expects to start issuing them, after background checks, in December at the earliest.

Some cities remain resistant to pot commerce and have adopted moratoriums and other restrictions that would effectively keep pot merchants away.

But others such as Seattle, Bainbridge Island and Bellevue are moving ahead with zoning and other regulations for permitting pot commerce.

Several lawyers who advise pot entrepreneurs said cities seem to be warming to pot commerce now that the state has adopted rules and the federal Department of Justice has said it won’t try to stop Washington’s legal system — approved by voters last November — provided it is tightly regulated.

“It’s not happening quickly, but I do have a sense there’s been a bit of a shift,” said Candice Bock of the Association of Washington Cities.

Officials in some of the reluctant cities have said they’re worried about the impact of legal pot commerce on community character. But the Liquor Control Board’s Marr said that excluding legitimate pot businesses only promotes the illicit pot market that already exists within those communities.

To keep store ownership from concentrating in the hands of a few, the rules do not allow a person or company to own more than three retail stores in the state.

Source: Seattle Times (WA)
Author: Bob Young, Seattle Times Staff Reporter
Published: October 16, 2013
Copyright: 2013 The Seattle Times Company

Regulations Finalized for Legal Marijuana Sales in Washington

October 17th, 2013

Yesterday, WashingtonWash finalized the rules that will regulate the sale of recreational marijuana throughout the state. The Liquor Control Board outlined the regulations following a year of research, debate, and hearings. The result is a system very similar to Colorado’s. It requires seed to sale tracking, child resistant packaging, quality control testing done by a third party, and other safeguards. The regulations also require background checks for potential storeowners, a ban on out of state funding, and prohibit anyone from holding more than three store licenses. Beginning November 18, the Liquor Control Board will accept applications for the 334 licenses available throughout the state of Washington.

The pressure on the Liquor Control Board is high as many state legislatures view Washington and Colorado as tests for the possibility of a tax and regulate policy in their own states. Key players in finalizing the rules commented to USA Today:

“We feel very proud of what we’re doing,” said Sharon Foster, chairwoman of the Washington Liquor Control Board, as she and her two colleagues approved the rules. “We are making history.”

“What the Liquor Control Board has done is build a template for the responsible regulation of marijuana,” said Alison Holcomb, the Seattle lawyer who drafted Washington’s marijuana initiative. “This is a template that is going to be reviewed by other states, and already is being reviewed by other countries.”

Washington State To Begin Accepting Applications In November From Marijuana Retailers

October 16th, 2013

Washington state regulators today finalized rules to govern the state’s nascent marijuana retail market. Beginning on November 18, regulators will begin formally accepting applications from those seeking state licenses to commercially produce, process, and sell cannabis to those age 21 and over. A press release regarding the state’s forthcoming rules and the application process is available here.

Under an initiative (I-502) enacted by voters in November, the adult possession of limited quantities of non-medical marijuana — as well as the state-licensed production and sale of cannabis — is not subject to criminal penalty. Voters in Colorado approved a similar measure in November authorizing state-licensed marijuana production and retail sales. Colorado state regulators began accepting applications from would-be marijuana producers and retailers earlier this month.

In an August memorandum, Deputy Attorney General Cole directed the US Attorneys in all 50 states, including Colorado, not to interfere with the implementation of state marijuana regulations unless such activities specifically undermined eight explicit federal law enforcement priorities.

Both Colorado and Washington are anticipated to have licensed marijuana retail outlets operational by early next year.

MPP’s Mason Tvert On Federal Marijuana Position

October 1st, 2013

Last week, MPP’s Mason Tvert spoke with Andrew Sullivan at The Dish about several aspects of marijuana policy and where it is headed. In this segment, he discusses where the federal government stands on the implementation of marijuana regulations in Colorado and Washington, and how they will deal with marijuana businesses:

District of Columbia Looking To Legalize Marijuana

September 17th, 2013

Today in Washington, DC, At Large City Councilman David Grosso (I) will introduce legislation before the District of Columbia City Council that seeks to eliminate all criminal and civil penalties for possessing small amounts of cannabis by adults over the age of 21, provide the DC Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration with the authority to license and regulate the production and taxable sale of cannabis, and to seal the criminal records for those previously charged with cannabis-related crimes.norml_remember_prohibition_

The introduction of this legislation proceeds a summer of an ACLU report on the disproportionate number of minorities arrested in the highest in the country per capita cannabis arrest region, a DPA/MPP-funded survey of DC residents supporting legalizing cannabis at 60%, the introduction of a cannabis decriminalization bill by Councilman Tommy Wells (which ten of twelve council members have co-signed) and finally with the Department of Justice memo issued a few weeks ago allowing states greater policy making autonomy regarding developing tolerant and forward-looking cannabis policies at the state level.



U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Hearing on ‘Conflicts Between State and Federal Marijuana Laws’

September 10th, 2013

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing Tuesday regarding “Conflicts Between State and Federal Marijuana Laws.” The Justice Department announced on August 29 that it will not seek to stop Colorado and Washington from moving forward with implementation of voter-approved laws establishing state-regulated systems of marijuana cultivation and retail sales.


Sheriff John Urquhart

The truly amazing part was that the majority of those called to testify were in support of the DOJ policy. This included King County Sheriff John Urquhart of Washington and Jack Finlaw, chief legal counsel for Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. The only people who seemed to disagree with the DOJ not getting in the way of these states enacting the will of their voters were Sen. Chuck Grassley and Kevin Sabet, one of the founders of the disingenuous Project SAM.

You can view the full hearing on C-SPAN.

Coming Soon: 334 Pot Stores in Washington State

September 9th, 2013

The state would license 334 pot stores, including at least 21 in Seattle and 61 in King County, under revised state rules for a recreational marijuana system. Total pot production would be capped at 40 metric tons next year in rules approved Wednesday by the state Liquor Control Board.

The cap is intended to meet anticipated consumer demand that would roughly equal 25 percent of the total state market for legal recreational, medical and illicit-market marijuana.

State officials expect recreational weed to gain market share over time, as they modify the system to better compete on price, quality and convenience with the medical and illicit markets.

The production cap helped determine the number of stores and limits on the amount of pot that growers could produce. Under the revised rules, growing facilities could be up to 30,000 square feet, or almost three-quarters of an acre.

In a stab at keeping the industry from concentrating in the hands of a few big players, the rules say no entity could hold more than three licenses in each of the producer, processor and retail categories.

Alison Holcomb, chief author of the state’s recreational-pot law, praised the revised rules as thoughtful and responsive.

“Other states and nations are already reviewing Washington state’s work for guidance in shaping new, and sound, marijuana policies in their communities,” said Holcomb, who has visited Uruguay to advise officials there on legalization.

But the rules were met by some criticism. They would favor indoor growing, and its large carbon footprint, over more environmentally beneficial sun-grown pot, according to some.

After holding public hearings next month, the board is expected to formally adopt the rules, which could be effective as early as mid-November. Following background checks and other state scrutiny, licenses would be issued, crops grown and stores open by June, if not sooner.

The revised rules come less than a week after the federal Department of Justice indicated it would let Colorado and Washington proceed with tightly regulated legal pot markets, as long as they adhered to certain priorities, such as keeping their weed from leaking into other states, or into the hands of minors.

The draft rules already mirrored the federal government’s priorities and were not changed by last week’s news out of Washington, D.C.

“I think we all breathed a sigh of relief,” said board member Chris Marr about how closely aligned the state rules and federal priorities appear to be.

Retail stores would be allocated by population and accessibility, in a system similar to the one used for defunct state liquor stores. That system sought to have stores within a 15-minute drive for 95 percent of the population.

After feedback from entrepreneurs and consumers, the Liquor Control Board relaxed some draft proposals in hopes of encouraging stores in dense urban neighborhoods such as Seattle’s Capitol Hill.

The voter-approved recreational-pot law restricts locations by requiring a 1,000-foot buffer between marijuana facilities and venues frequented by youth, such as schools and parks.

The board changed the way the 1,000 feet is calculated, opting to use the most common path between a pot facility and a youth venue, rather than a straight-line measurement.

Sharon Foster, the board chair, offered the example of a potential growing facility that was 995 feet from a school, but a person would have to cross a freeway to maintain that distance. “That’s when we looked at common path of travel,” Foster said.

The draft rule was “absurd” because of such examples, said Ryan Espegard, a Seattle attorney whose firm advises pot entrepreneurs and advocated for the common-path measurement.

Under the proposed allocation of stores, the board assigned a certain number to each county.

Some rural counties — Columbia, Ferry, Garfield — each were allotted just one store.

In addition to King County’s 61 stores, Snohomish County was allocated 35 stores, Pierce County 31 stores and Spokane County 18 stores.

Within more populous counties, the state allocated stores to certain cities, and left a number of stores “at-large” meaning they could go where they were welcome within a county.

It did not specify exactly where in counties and cities the stores could set up.

A number of cities, including Kent and University Place, are opposed to legal pot commerce and have created zoning barriers and other impediments.

State officials allocated three stores to Kent, the state’s sixth-largest city, and one to the smaller University Place near Tacoma.

Board officials made it clear that licensees would need approval from the cities they wanted to locate in. And if cities continue their resistance it sets up a potential legal battle between a state-licensed store and reluctant city. “Ultimately, it’s an issue between the applicant and local jurisdiction,” said Alan Rathburn, the board’s licensing director.

Randy Simmons, the state’s marijuana project director, said coming up with the consumption estimate was the toughest task the state has tackled so far.

Simmons called it a “razor’s edge” calculation. If the state underestimated it could encourage consumers to buy from the illicit market; if it overestimated then a surplus of legal pot might leak into other states.

Because the size of farms are capped at 30,000 square feet, some believe the revised rules favor indoor growing, which can produce four crops a year, over outdoor growing, which is limited to two harvests.

“Who wins? The person with the lights on,” said Okanogan County activist Jeremy Moberg, who advocates for sun-grown pot.

A peer-reviewed study in a scientific journal last year reported that producing a kilo of energy-intensive indoor pot leaves a carbon footprint equivalent to driving across the country seven times.

Simmons said the rules give indoor growing an inadvertent edge.

“It wasn’t the intent of the policy,” he said; the intent was to cap the size of growing operations so they weren’t dominated by big businesses.

Simmons said an adjustment in the rules might be necessary to level competition between indoor and sun-grown weed.

“This is just one juncture of many as we move through changes to tweak and improve the system,” said board member Ruthann Kurose of the revised rules.

The Liquor Control Board allocated marijuana retail stores based mostly on population. Here is a partial list of the stores allocated in the Seattle-Tacoma area:

King County 61
Seattle 21
At large 11
Bellevue 4
Kent 3
Federal Way 3
Renton 3
Shoreline 2
Redmond 2
Kirkland 2
Auburn 2
Snohomish County 35
At large 16
Everett 5
Marysville 3
Lynnwood 2
Edmonds 2
Kitsap County 10
At large 7
Bremerton 2
Bainbridge Island 1
Pierce County 31
At large 17
Tacoma 8
Puyallup 2
Lakewood 2

Source: Liquor Control Board

Source: Seattle Times (WA)
Author: Bob Young, Seattle Times Staff Reporter
Published: September 5, 2013
Copyright: 2013 The Seattle Times Company