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A look back at ‘highs,’ lows in 2017

There’s no doubt that the ‘Green Rush’ is still going strong in Washington and other states, and cannabis has the potential to do great things for local economies, especially as more and more states create more frameworks to allow legal growing and selling – and more tax revenue.

At the same time, some citizens have firm reservations about the changed legal status about something that has been considered dangerous and illegal for generations. This is being observed in some Eastern Washington farming communities, where some voters didn’t necessarily mind pot philosophically when it was on the 2012 ballot, but don’t care for the sight or smell of it as it grows.

To remind people of the ups and downs in 2017 and what’s ahead in 2018, enjoy the following list.

January

A new president caused uncertainty about state’s rights vs. federal crackdowns on pot. Spokane County Commissioners and growers met to discuss a recent ban on permits for outdoor cannabis farms, and local veterans said cannabis helps their PTSD.

February

Six months after the state’s medical and recreational programs merged, some patients remained confused by the system and process. Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson pledged to resist rumored federal attacks on the new cannabis industry.

March

Soap Lake businesses announced that the town wants to be a ‘marijuana mecca’ that welcomes growers and retailers. A new report showed that youth rates of pot use are holding steady before and after legalization, which countered early fears that it would rise.

April

Readers learned the truth about 420, the unofficial global marijuana holiday. (It was a secret code used by 1970s-era high school kids referring to a secret stash.) Spokane County launched an educational program encouraging new moms and moms-to-be to refrain from pot use.

May

Washington’s Legislature approved new marketing rules for retailers, including signage. It also now permits secure transportation companies to work with growers to retailers.

June

Under what circumstances can or should pot be given to children? A nationwide study is evaluating if certain CBD strains can help childhood epilepsies, even if state laws make it difficult to obtain it.

July

A signature-collecting drive asking the City of Spokane to reduce the buffer between retailers and places of worship failed. But it led to local cannabis supporters holding a public rally supporting Lucky Leaf, a downtown Spokane store that could have been impacted if the initiative succeeded.

August

A Washington State University study confirmed that cannabis users are calmer than non-users, even in more stressful situations. The calmness continues even after the immediate ‘high’ wears off. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions warned state governments that none are managing their marijuana systems well.

September

The City of Spokane updated zoning rules after a new arcade tried to limit Smokane moving to a new location. The owner of Old Fashioned Fun Arcade said it wasn’t affiliated with any cannabis retailers.

October

Public testimony began over proposals to allow adults to grow their own plants. Some trade associations found all proposed options too invasive, while homegrow proponents felt anything is an improvement.

November

After BioTrack, the traceability system, expired at the end of October, its replacement, MJ Freeway wasn’t ready to go, requiring some growers and retailers to return to spreadsheets and pencil and paper record-keeping. Some growers even suspended sales.

December

The Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency decided to deliberate further on a plan to modify the rules of how producers and processors must minimize odors, including a revised fee structure. The board will resume discussions Jan. 4. At a December public hearing, several farmers shared their concerns that the proposed new regulations were excessive and punitive, especially since only a few growers were responsible for the majority of all complaints. The agency also voted to add a $5,000 fine if an agency employee is threatened or assaulted.

2018

Being part of Washington’s cannabis industry requires a blend of patience and optimism, and both of these virtues will be required in 2018. The next few months can include a decision on whether to allow legal home-growing from the Legislature, and whether Spokane-area growers will need to pay more to minimize odors. Local growers are also concerned about slowly dropping prices and the possibility of too many stores.