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Spin Control

Posts tagged: legalized marijuana

Pot store lottery at the end of April

OLYMPIAWashington will announce the winners of licenses for its first legal recreational marijuana stores at the beginning of May, after a complicated “double-blind” lottery is held at the end of this month.

The first legal sales aren’t likely until the beginning of July, after the lottery winners complete construction, pass final inspection and get their products from state-licensed marijuana farms. . . 

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Pot possession prosecutions plummet

OLYMPIA — Prosecutions of adults for misdemeanor possession of marijuana have practically dropped off the charts since the passage of Initiative 502, the ACLU of Washington said today.

Data from the Administrative Office of the Court says there were 7,964 such prosecutions in 2009. That had dropped to 5,531 by 2012, when voters approved I-502, which legalized private use of marijuana for recreational purposes for those 21 and over.

Last year, there were 120 cases. That's about 98 percent less.

“The data strongly suggest that I-502 has achieved one of its primary goals – to free up limited police and prosecutorial resources. These resources can now be used for other important public safety concerns,”  Mark Cooke, Criminal Justice Policy Counsel for the ACLU of Washington, said in a press release. 

Stick a fork in the medical pot bills

OLYMPIA —Washington's two marijuana systems — an older one for medical patients and a new one for “recreational use” by adults —may remain separate at least for another year.

Legislators involved in negotiations over proposals to merge the two as Washington gets its new legal recreational marijuana system off the ground agreed there was little chance bills would pass in the waning hours of the session.

Rep. Cary Condotta, R-East Wenatchee, said House Republicans wanted a portion of the tax money to be collected from the newly licensed marijuana growers, processors and retail stores to go to local governments. Initiative 502, which voters approved in 2012, sends all marijuana tax revenue to the state. Without that change, the main proposal to merge the two systems had “no hope, no how,” he said.

But Condotta held out hope that a separate bill calling for a group to study ways to improve and merge the two marijuana system would pass before the Legislature adjourned.

Cities and counties around the state have imposed moratoriums on allowing new medical marijuana businesses within their borders, but Condotta said those objections would disappear if they were promised revenue to help pay for the extra law enforcement many local officials think will be needed when the businesses open.

Rep. Eileen Cody, D-West Seattle, said the proposed change to send some tax money to local governments didn't have the votes to pass and was “95 percent dead.” The study bill wasn't going to pass without the larger bill dealing with the merger, she said, but Gov. Jay Inslee could call for a study through an executive order.

Ezra Eickmeyer of the Washington Cannabis Association, a group that represents medical marijuana patients, accused local jurisdictions of “holding the initiative hostage” for tax money. But merging the two systems and closing the current medical marijuana dispensaries without some agreement to drop the moratoriums and allow recreational stores all over the state meant patients would have trouble getting the medical version of the drug.

Without controls on the growing number of medical marijuana growers and dispensaries, Cody said the state could have trouble with the federal government, which still considers the drug illegal for all uses. “The feds may come in and start closing some of them down,” she said.

Lege to pot businesses: No tax breaks for you

OLYMPIA — Legal marijuana growers in Washington will not get any of the tax breaks other farmers get, under a bill passed today by the Legislature.

The House gave final passage to a bill that makes marijuana farming different from any other agricultural product, and not eligible for various exemptions or credits for business and occupation, sales or utility taxes. 

Thousands of would-be pot growers have applied for licenses and the Liquor Control Board, which regulates recreational marijuana under Initiative 502, began awarding licenses last week. They'll have to make their new operations work without the kind of tax help the state gives many other new industries.

House Finance Committee Chairman Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, said other agricultural producers get help to keep them competitive with farmers in other states, which also offer tax breaks. But marijuana farmers won't have that kind of competition, because growing marijuana remains illegal in most other states, he said.

If the marijuana industry needs help down the road, the Legislature can always consider tax breaks in a future session, Carlyle said.

But legal marijuana growers do have competition, Rep. Cary Condotta, R-East Wenatchee, said, from illegal growers who pay no taxes or fees to the state. Without tax breaks, legal recreational marijuana  might be so expensive that people won't switch from the black market, and the system the state sets up will be “destined for failure.”

Legal growers will get no breaks from the state or federal government and pay a 25 percent excise tax on sales to processors, who will pay a 25 percent tax on sales to retail stores. The stores will add another 25 percent excise tax, plus a sales tax, to consumers.

An estimate by the Office of Financial Management said will collect some $25 million over 10 years on the taxes that marijuana businesses will pay, that many other businesses don't.

The bill passed on a 55-42 vote, Speaker Pro Tem Jim Moeller ruled it didn't need a two-thirds supermajority because it didn't change any provision of I-502.

Senate: No tax breaks for pot

OLYMPIA — A unanimous Senate voted to bar tax breaks for the state's fledgling marijuana businesses.

On a 47-0 vote, it passed SB 6505, which says the state's new marijuana entrepreneurs who have filed for licenses to grow, process and sell recreational marijuana won't be eligible for various tax preferences that other businesses might enjoy.

Marijuana is not an agricultural commodity, and growers won't get certain tax breaks farmers who grow other crops receive. The bill excludes marijuana and marijuana-infused products from which eliminates the ability for persons in that industry to take advantage of tax breaks for agriculture. Marijuana businesses will also be ineligible for eight B&O tax preferences; 16 sales and use tax preferences; four additional excise tax preferences; and four property tax preferences, two for real property and two for personal property.

The bill was sent to the House.

Liquor Board sets new pot-growing limits

UPDATE: OLYMPIA — Faced with far more people wanting to grow legal marijuana than state rules would allow, the Liquor Control Board upped the amount of land that can be planted to the drug by more than five-fold. But it also put some new restrictions on would-be growers.

The board agreed Wednesday to limit applicants to one grower license per business entity, cutting down on the multiple requests some new marijuana entrepreneurs have turned in for as many as three grower licenses. It also reduced the amount of land all requests will be allowed to plant by 30 percent.

“We are going to do this right,” Board Chairwoman Sharon Foster said. “The Department of Justice is not going to have anything to complain about for the state of Washington.”

The board’s decision came as the state’s fiscal analysts made their first estimates of legal marijuana’s boost to state coffers – a possible $51 million bump in tax revenue from recreational sales – and the Legislature continued to examine ways to merge the separate existing medical marijuana system with the untried recreational system. . . 

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WA Lege Day 24: Carrot, stick for pot businesses get OK

OLYMPIA — A House panel approved what it described as both a carrot and a stick for local governments that are reluctant to approve new marijuana businesses that have been licensed by the state.

In a 9-0 vote, the Government Accountability and Oversight Committee approved a proposal that would send some of the tax money collected from recreational marijuana businesses back to the city or county where the business is licensed. It also adds language to state law that says state law pre-empts local ordinances on recreational marijuana.

A few cities have approved complete bans on recreational marijuana businesses, and dozens  more have passed moratoria on approving them while certain issues are studied. That could set up a scenario where the drug can be purchased legally at state regulated stores by adults in one community, but onlly on the black marked in a neighboring community, Committee Chairman Chris Hurst, D-Enumclaw, said.

“Initiative 502 won't work unless it works everywhere,” said Hurst, referring to the ballot measure that legalized recreational marijuana for adults in 2012. “The voters have spoken…This is about making it work.”

It's likely not the last change the law will need, he added. The bill now heads for the House Finance Committee because of changes in the way taxes are distributed. If it is approved there, it goes to the full House.

Later today, the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee holds hearings on a pair of bills that try to merge the recreational marijuana system with the medical marijuana system which was set up by a different initiative in 1998. 

 

Sunday Spin: Marijuana a racist slur? No dude, it’s not

With more than 100 bills addressing marijuana this session, it may be no surprise the silliest thing said so far has involved this topic.

Granted, we’re only a third of the way through the session, and a huge amount of silliness may lie ahead. But it will be hard for anyone to top a point being raised with great conviction – albeit not much thought – at several recent hearings on marijuana bills:

“Marijuana is a racial slur.”

Because of this, some hearing witnesses say, the state should stop using the word, strike it from the law books, and replace it with “cannabis.”

Dude, please. . .

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Carrot or stick to fight pot business bans?

OLYMPIA – Legislators are trying to decide whether to offer a carrot or use a stick against local governments that don’t want to let recreational marijuana businesses set up shop inside their borders.

The carrot: Offering up some of the taxes those businesses will be required to pay the state as the drug moves from harvest to sale.

The stick: A flat out ban on interfering with pot businesses that get state licenses.

Not surprisingly, cities and counties would rather have the cash. But they’re reluctant to promise they'd issue licenses even then. . .

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No pot sellers on Google, TIME says

One more obstacle for Washington's budding marijuana industry to confront: You won't be able to advertise on Google or Facebook.

That according to TIME, which says that even in Washington and Colorado, where recreational marijuana use is legal, Google and Facebook will not allow sellers to advertise their wares.

Washington's new regulations on recreational marijuana have strict rules for standard advertising like signage for stores but Internet advertising isn't mentioned in the regs.

Daily Show tweets about WA pot biz rush

As reported earlier this week in Spin Control:

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.

Pot applications continue to pour in

Applications for marijuana stores in Spokane County

OLYMPIA — Washington has many times more people who want to sell or grow marijuana that the state will allow, and all the applications have yet to be processed.

The Washington Liquor Control Board today released the names and addresses of some 6,600 businesses that have applied for licenses to produce, process or sell recreational marijuana under the law voters passed in November 2012.

The 2,035 applications for retail marijuana stores is about six times more than the 334 retail licenses that board said will be approved for Washington. After all of the applications are examined to make sure they comply with rules for obtaining any required local permits and have locations that are at least 1,000 feet from schools, parks, playgrounds or other areas mainly for children, the board will hold a lottery in each county or city that has more applications than the number allocated.

The Spokane area has nearly eight times more requests for retail licenses than the 18 allocated. Under board rules, the city of Spokane can have eight marijuana stores, the city of Spokane Valley can have three and all other areas of the county can have seven. 

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Liquor Board would limit medical marijuana

Washington should severely cut the amount of marijuana that medical patients can possess, require them to register with the state, have annual medical checkups, and pay most of the same taxes as recreational users, a state agency recommended today.

In a move sure to draw fire from the medical marijuana community, the state Liquor Control Board released recommendations it will send to next year's Legislature as the state tries to blend two sets of laws on the drug.

The board is authorized by Initiative 502 to regulate recreational marijuana use, and is currently accepting applications for businesses that want to grow, process or sell the drug to adults for private use. The board has no authority over medical marijuana, which was approved by voters in 1998, and is largely unregulated.

As part of the 2013-15 general operating budget earlier this year, the Legislature directed the board to work with the state departments of Health and Revenue to study the two systems and come up with recommendations to integrate them. Legislators will still have to draft bills that would include some or all of the recommendations, and get them through the two chambers and signed by Gov. Jay Inslee.

For more information on the board's recommendations, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Pot store applications growing

 

Washington has received 230 license applications for recreational marijuana stores.

As the map shows, many are concentrated between Everett and Tacoma — no surprise because that's where the state's population is concentrated. But the proposals for stores are also starting to dot the rest of the state, and Spokane County has nine, half of the allotment the Liquor Control Board has set aside.

Businesses have until Dec. 19 to apply for a license to grow, process or sell recreational marijuana under Initiative 502. 

For an enlargeable map that has names and addresses of would-be marijuana stores, click here

86 pot licenses sought for Spokane

.OLYMPIA – A tally of the first week of applications by would-be marijuana businesses shows a certain amount of creativity in coming up with names for what in most of the country is an illegal business.
Cheech and Chong might be proud of some who play off established drug slang, such as 420 Growers and Producers, Farmer J’s, Happy Daze or United We’d Stand. Dunn and Bradstreet might be happier with other names that give no clue as to the nature of the business, like Triple T Farms or WW Processing.

 

 

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Documents:

More than 800 pot biz applications in 1st week

~~OLYMPIA – More than 800 potential new businesses have signed up to grow, process or sell legal marijuana in the first week Washington accepted applications for its new industry.
Rick Garza, director of the state Liquor Control Board which will award the licenses, told a legislative committee Friday about 200 applications are for retail outlets, and the state will license up to 334 stores, but is limiting the licenses for each county and most cities. If the board gets fewer applications than it is allowing for the state or some community, it could reopen the process, he said. The window for license applications currently is scheduled to close Dec. 19.
The state might not hit its targets for the number of stores or the amount of space to be planted to legal marijuana because some counties and cities have passed moratoria or bans on marijuana licenses, Garza told the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee.
 “We will issues licenses regardless of whether there are moratoria or bans,” he said. But the licensees might have to go to court to overturn a local moratorium. The board has asked for a formal state attorney general’s opinion on whether cities and counties can override state regulations, but it might not be available before the Dec. 19 cutoff.
The board will also make recommendations next month on how to change the state’s medical marijuana laws, but any legislation will come through the House and Senate Health Care Committees.
  

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.

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.

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.” 

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.

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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.

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