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Posts tagged: I-502

Demand high for pot licenses

Applications for marijuana stores in Spokane County

Applications for marijuana growing licenses in Spokane County

OLYMPIA — Washington is seeing a green rush of sorts in marijuana, with far more people wanting to grow and sell the drug legally than the state will allow.

State agencies will approve no more than 334 licenses for retail marijuana stores and they already more than 2,000 applicants. Would-be pot entrepreneurs also have proposed planting many times more land than the will allow for its newest cash crop. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

 

Marijuana growers seek licenses around state

Map courtesy of Gina Boysun, Spokesman.com Online Director.

The demand for licenses to grow legal marijuana in Washington is growing — if you'll forgive the expression — like a weed.

In the first two weeks that it has been accepting license applications for marijuana businesses, the state has received 634 requests. There are three different “tiers” for growers, depending on how much area they plan to plant. But if all of the licenses were granted and planted to the maximum allowed, it would amount to almost 9.4 million square feet of land planted to marijuana.

This is a bit of a problem because the state is only planning to license 2 million square feet. The state Liquor Control Board will announce plans for meeting its limits for the licenses that are granted early next year. 

In the map above, the red pins represent Tier 1 applications, which are 2,000 square feet or less, the yellow pins represent Tier 2 applications for 2,000 to 10,000 square feet, and the green pins represent Tier 3 applications for 10,000 to 30,000 square feet.

To view this map in a larger window, click here.

Pot biz applications open Monday

Sam Calvert has a dream of getting in on the ground floor of a historic change in retail commerce that begins Monday. But it’s a struggle, he acknowledged.

“This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” said Calvert, 50, who has managed commercial real estate and worked as a consultant for business startups.

He knows the three most important factors for a business are “location, location, location,” but as of late this week was without a lease. He has yet to find a bank that will accept his commercial account. For most businesses he counsels, their start up difficulty is a 2 or a 3 on scale of 1 to 10. His start up is “at least a 9, maybe a 10.”

The business Calvert wants to start? Green Star, a retail outlet for recreational marijuana sales…

 

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Liquor Board seeks opinion on pot bans

OLYMPIA — In another sign that the state is feeling its way through the unknown terrain of legalizing marijuana, a state agency is asking the attorney general's office for advice on what to do about local bans on growing and selling the drug.

The Washington State Liquor Control Board has asked for attorney general's opinions on whether cities and counties can enforce outright bans on growers, processors or retailers who have received state licenses. It also asked if local governments can pass land use regulations more stringent than those in Initiative 502 and the board's requirements that would make it impractical for licensed marijuana businesses to locate in their jurisdictions.

After I-502 passed and the board began discussing rules for recreational marijuana businesses, some cities and counties passed moratoria on those businesses. During one hearing on the rules, board members and a Pierce County official sparred over whether that county's ban could continue.

The attorney general's office sent out a notice to lawyers around the state who may have outside expertise or information that could assist in these formal opinions.

Pot applications open Nov. 18

OLYMPIA — State officials will begin accepting applications for people who want to get into the marijuana business — legally, that is — starting at 8 a.m. Nov. 18.

The state Revenue Department will be set up to accept marijuana license applications any one of three ways at that point. Online, by mail or in person at a field office.

The application materials won't be available until Nov. 18. Applications will be accepted through 5 p.m. Dec. 19. The department will forward them to the state Liquor Control Board, which will oversee the recreational marijuana industry.

A word of warning: The state is charging a series of non-refundable fees, including a $250 fee for every endorsement — grower, processor or retailer — sought. So if the Liquor Control Board doesn't approve your request, you don't get your money back.

For more on the process, check out the Business Licensing Service web site.

 

State pot rules get board OK

OLYMPIA — Potential growers, processors and vendors of marijuana will be able to apply for state licenses in one month. The agency in charge of setting up the state's recreational marijuana system this morning approved the rules they'll have to follow to get the industry off the ground.

“Today we are making history,” Sharon Foster, chairwoman of the Washington State Liquor Control Board, said. “It's going to be a bumpy road for a while, folks.”

The 43 typed pages of rules cover everything from how far a marijuana store must be from schools, parks and other places frequented by children (1,000 feet, in a straight line from property boundaries) to the size of a sign a store may have (1,600 square inches) to the hours it may be open (8 a.m. to midnight)

They describe the system to track a marijuana plant and its useable materials it produces from the field to the processor to the store, as well as the warning labels that must accompany marijuana or products infused with the drug when they are sold.

Board member Chris Marr, a former state senator from Spokane, called the rules a balance between public access and public safety, and should allay the fears of cities and counties that have passed moratoria on marijuana businesses being located within their borders. “We might not have it exactly right,” Marr added, and some adjustments will likely need to be made in the coming years.

The board will hold a series of licensing “seminars” around the state to help potential applicants understand the rules and answer their questions. A pair of seminars is scheduled for the Spokane Convention Center on Oct. 23. Applications for the licenses will be available beginning Nov. 18.

Inslee asks feds to let banks serve pot businesses

OLYMPIA — Governors of the two states that legalized marijuana last year are asking federal regulators to find a way that businesses licensed to raise and sell the drug can use banks.

Govs. Jay Inslee of Washington and John Hickenlooper of Colorado sent a letter to the heads of the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve Board, the Comptroller of the Currency and other key banking regulators, asking them to come up with guidance to allow the fledgling businesses to establish accounts.

Federal banking regulations currently forbid banks from accepting money from illegal drug transactions, and the federal law classifies marijuana as an illegal drug, even though voters in the two states have passed laws making it legal for recreational use by adults.

Without bank accounts, businesses that are licensed by the state to grow, process or sell recreational marijuana will have to deal in cash, which creates “an unnecessary inviting target for criminal activity,” the governors say in their letter. It also makes it more difficult to track the flow of money and prevent diversion of some proceeds into illegal activities, they added.

Washington voters last November approved Initiative 502, which legalizes the recreational use of marijuana by adults in private, but the state Liquor Control Board is still developing rules for the businesses to operate. The board is expected to begin accepting applications for recreational marijuana businesses in November, with licenses awarded early next year and stores open by June.

State could try to close pot dispensaries

OLYMPIA — State officials may crack down on medical marijuana dispensaries next year, even as it licenses other businesses to grow, process and sell the drug for recreational uses.

The state’s 15-year-old medical marijuana law was never intended to allow people to make a profit by selling the drug to patients, a task force of officials from several agencies told a legislative committee. Dispensaries aren’t even mentioned in the law.

“These dispensaries are absolutely illegal, criminal operations,” said Rep. Chris Hurst, D-Enumclaw, chairman of the House Government Oversight and Accountability Committee. “What's it going to take to shut all these down?”

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Inslee, U.S. attorneys meet on pot

OLYMPIA — Washington and federal officials had what's being called a “standard followup” meeting this morning about the new policy on state-legal marijuana. Nothing earth-shattering to report, apparently.

Gov. Jay Inslee, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson and U.S. Attorneys Mike Ormsby and Jenny Durkan has a morning meeting in Inslee's office. No big policy changes, say those familiar with the meeting.

Ormsby after the meeting described it as just an opportunity to underscore last week's memo out of Washington, D.C., on federal policy regarding states that have legalized marijuana in some form. The Justice Department said it would not be trying to stop Washington and Colorado from proceeding witlh rules to allow the growing, sale and use of recreational marijuana to adults, but it would step in to stop sales to minors, laundering of money from criminal enterprises and some other activities.

Inslee's office, too, said nothing new came out of the meeting. “It was just standard followup,” spokeswoman Jaime Smith said. “It's all an ongoing conversation.” 

Feds won’t pre-empt WA pot law

OLYMPIA — The federal government will not try to stop Washington from setting up a way to allow adults to use legal marijuana.

In what state officials described as a “game changer”, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Thursday the federal government will focus attention on several key areas of illegal marijuana production and sales, but allow Washington to continue setting up systems for legal marijuana to be grown and sold to adults.  .  .

 

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Holder asked to explain pot policy to Senate

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is being asked to explain to a Senate committee his department's policy toward Washington and other states that have legalized some form of marijuana consumption.  

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., wants Holder to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 10 to clarify the federal response for Washington and Colorado, which have legalized the recreational use of marijuana for adults, and for the 20 states and the District of Columbia which have legalized medical marijuana.

Afther Washington and Colorado voters passed state laws legalizing recreational marijuana use last November, Leahy asked the Obama administration what it planned to do about enforcement policies and “what assurances the administration can give to state officials responsible for the licensing of marijuana retailers to ensure they will not face criminal penalties for carrying out their duties under those state laws,” he said Monday in a prepared statement.

State laws should be respected, Leahy said. “At a minimum, there should be guidance about enforcement from the federal government.”

Gov. Jay Inslee and State Attorney General Rob Ferguson met with Holder in January, asking what the federal government's response would be to Washington's legalization of marijuana. They have yet to get an answer, and Ferguson said last week he had “no additional knowledge” of what the federal response would be. The state is preparing rules for people who want to obtain licenses to grow, process and sell marijuana legally.

The attorney general's office “continues to prepare for the worst case scenario, which would be litigation” if the federal government tries to stop that, Ferguson said.

Senate OKs change to I-502

With remarkable speed, the Legislature approved a technical change in the state’s new legalized marijuana law that takes the plant’s chemistry into account.
  

The biggest obstacle may have been the reading of the bill title in the Senate, where official reader Ken Edmonds stumbled over tetrahydracannibanol, the chemical in question.


Legislation does not come with a pronunciation guide, and Edmonds is not of an age where familiarity with that substance makes the word roll trippingly off the tongue. It’s possible that some of the senators who chuckled at his struggle were more familiar.


The only discouraging word on the quick fix for the law came from Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, who said he didn’t favor Initiative 502 in the first place, and the problem was an example of what can go wrong with a ballot measure, which isn’t subjected to the scrutiny and debate of a legislative bill.


“You never know what you’re going to get when you vote for an initiative,” Hargrove warned. “This was a flawed initiative, and now we’re having to use an extraordinary step here to fix it.”


But Hargrove voted yes for the change, as did everyone else in the Senate.

House passes quick fix to pot law

OLYMPIA — Working with uncharacteristic speed, both chambers cleared the way for a special vote to change in the state's marijuana, and the House gave the bill near-unanimous approval.

The problem with the state's legal definition of marijuana was discovered in the last week, as the state crime laboratory reported its test equipment doesn't differentiate between two different chemicals that can be present in the plant. Only one, delta-9 tetrahydracannibanol, is mentioned in the law voters approved last year that allows recreational use of marijuana  by adults, and the percentage of that chemical present in any material determines whether it is marijuana.

That definition in Initiative 502 also governs the legal growing, processing and selling of marijuana, which is to be regulated by the state. But the equipment the lab uses turns another a non-psychoactive precursor chemical, tetrahydracannibanol acid which is also present in the plant into delta-9 THC, and THC-A isn't mentioned in the law. A lab analyst testifying in a drug growing or trafficking case can't say how much of the delta-9 THC in their findings was the legal THC-A  when the substance was seized.

“They can no longer legally test the substance,” said Rep. Chris Hurst, D-Enumclaw, the chairman of the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee, which handles the legal issues surrounding the state's changing marijuana laws.

The solution was relatively easy: Change the law to so that any amount of delta-9 THC and THC-A above the set limit makes the substance marijuana. Getting there was not so easy, because the problem was reported to the Legislature in its last week of regular session, when normal deadlines for introducing new bills and voting on them had long passed.

A bill introduced Wednesday was passed by Hurst's committee Thursday and sent to the House, which voted to let both chambers suspend the normal rules and vote on the billl Friday morning. The Senate agreed, which allowed the bill to get a vote in the House Friday afternoon. Because it changes a new initiative, it needed at least a two-thirds majority to approve it; it got that easily, passing 95-1.

“There's no way we can wait 11 months to fix this,” Hurst said after the vote. The Senate is expected to take up the bill over the weekend before the regular session closes. 

State could legalize hemp along with pot

OLYMPIA — The cannabis plant could provide Washington state with two new agricultural crops: One for smoking, and one making rope and fabric.

Different strains of the plant would be used for the different products, and different state agencies would control the different crops. But they share one key similarity: They're currently both against federal law.
 
Despite the federal ban, the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee this morning approved HB 1888, a bill that would pave the way for farmers to grow industrial hemp in Washington. Legislators and a representative from the state Agriculture Department agreed there are some details that need to be worked out… 
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Sunday Spin: Leftover from the I-502 campaign

OLYMPIA – Elections are designed to place a punctuation mark on political disputes. Sometimes it’s a full-stop period; other times, more of comma, pausing to allow one to take a breath before the argument continues.

That seems the case with Initiative 502, which as most of the world knows opens the door for adults to smoke marijuana in private. (Who among us hasn’t had a reprobate relative, old high school buddy or college roommate call to suggest they were planning a visit to, wink-wink, take in the air of democracy in the Evergreen State, or something equally prosaic?)

Anyone paying the slightest bit of attention to I-502 knew that passing the ballot measure was just the start of a long process for state officials to wrestle with regulating what has so far been unregulatable: the growing, processing and selling of something the feds consider a dangerous drug of the highest order. There’s a full year of wrangling ahead on that.

Also leftover from the campaign is a complaint stemming from an October rally in the Capitol Rotunda which featured television travel guru Rick Steves and state Rep. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia. Planned to generate support for I-502, the rally also drew opponents.. . 

Gallup poll: Feds should back off in pot states

The federal government should back off enforcement of federal marijuana laws in stateslike Washington that have legalized the drug, a solid majority of people told a recent Gallup poll.

Nearly two-third — 64 percent of all adults surveyed in late November — told pollsters they do not believe the federal government should enforce its laws if they conflict with state law. 

In the same survey, respondents were almost evenly split — 50 percent for, 48 percent against — on whether they thought marijuana should be legal. That's a big jump from 1969, when Gallup first started asking the question and 12 percent said the drug should be legal

More answers to questions about new marijuana laws

After we published answers in the print and online versions of The Spokesman-Review to questions about the new marijuana laws, a not too surprising thing happened.

People asked us more questions. 

Spin Control does not give out legal advice, and isn't in the position of knowing everything possible about the new post I-502 marijuana laws. But we can answer a few of the questions, or find someone who can. If more come in, we'll take another run at it, too.

Here goes:

If I'm at a bar that has an outside area where patrons can drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes, would it be legal to smoke marijuana there?

For the answer to this and other questions, click here to go inside the blog. 

Mapping the vote: Spokane on legalized marijuana

Initiative 502, which will legalize recreational use of marijuana for adults in Washington, passed handily statewide and is ahead in Spokane County in Tuesday's tally.

Click here for a look at the statewide map.

For a closer look at the Spokane breakdown, click on the PDF file below


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I-502 puts former feds in TV ad

Those wondering what the Initiative 502 would do with that boatload of money it is sitting on have at least part of an answer. Today they unveiled a television ad that features three federal law enforcement types — two former district attorneys and one former FBI agent — arguing that legalizing marijuana would be a good thing.

A copy of the ad can be found here.

Kate Pflaumer was the U.S. attorney for Western Washington under Bill Clinton, and John McKay had the job under George W. Bush. Also on the ad is Charles Mandigo, was once the special agent in charge in Seattle. McKay and Mandigo both testified at a legislative hearing earlier this year in favor of the change in law.

I-502 would legalize marijuana use in Washington for adults in many instances. The pro campaign, which is called New Approach Washington, has collected more than $4.8 million, but has spent only about half of it so far.

A check of the Public Disclosure Commission records shows that total is driven in part by some big out-of-state donations, including $1.7 million from Peter Lewis of Mayfield Village, Ohio, the retired board chairman of Progressive Insurance, and 1.3 million from Drug Policy Action, the political arm of the Drug Policy Alliance, a New York based group working on changing drug laws. Biggest Washington donor is Rick Steves, noted travel writer and marijuana activist, who's in for $350,000.

The No campaign, which goes by the name Safe Access has raised about $9,300, much of it from medical marijuana operations which oppose the law, Another group, No on I 502, has raised just under $5,800. Those totals are a bit dated, because neither has reported any contributions or expenditures since the end of August.

Baumgartner endorses marijuana initiative

State Sen. Mike Baumgartner, who is running for the U.S. Senate against Democrat Maria Cantwell, today announced support for a state initiative that would legalize marijuana for personal use in Washington.

The Spokane Republican said it was time for a new approach to the nation's drug policy, and called Initiative 502 a “thoughtful step forward.” Time spent as an advisor to a counternarcotics team in Afghanistan convinced him that drug cartels are gaining from the United States approach to criminalizing marijuana for adults, he added.

“By failing to regulate and tax marijuana in a responsible manner, we are allowing billions of dollars to flow into their coffers,” he said. “And American lives are put in danger at  home and abroad.”

Cantwell supports the state’s medical marijuana law, which is already in conflict with federal drug regulations, but said she does not support I-502. In a statement released by her campaign, she said it should not be “legalized for recreational purposes based on concerns from law enforcement”.

“Whatever the result, I will honor the will of the voters’ decision in November,” she said.

Baumgartner said the states should have more independence to experiment with drug laws. . .

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Nick Deshais covers Spokane City Hall for The Spokesman-Review.

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