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ADDY, Wash. – Chris Van Hook bent over a shrub-sized marijuana plant at Mountain High Farm with a magnifying glass last month, looking for imperfections in the fan-shaped leaves. A few of the fronds were “chewed on,” which is what Van Hook expects in a pesticide-free crop.
Statewide, sales of legal recreational marijuana rose 32 percent in March over February totals.
OLYMPIA – Two of the three members of the state board that oversees Washington’s liquor and marijuana laws will step down early next year. That includes Chris Marr, a former Spokane businessman and state senator, who is resigning in January to take a position as a lobbyist. And Chairwoman Sharon Foster has informed Gov. Jay Inslee that she will not accept a reappointment to the Liquor Control Board when her term expires in January.
A cross-country road trip landed New Hampshire natives Steve and Tricia Goyette in north Spokane just hours before the city’s first recreational marijuana store let in its first customers Tuesday. “It’s nice to finally be able to buy it legally,” said Steve Goyette, determined to hold steady in the July heat to take advantage of their coincidental arrival in Spokane just as legal marijuana sales began. “I hope New Hampshire comes around.”
Businesses that plan to grow or process marijuana in Eastern Washington can bank with a Spokane Valley credit union. But other legal pot businesses – those that sell marijuana products to customers – are not going to be eligible to open accounts at Numerica Credit Union, the only financial institution in Washington so far willing to handle the cash generated by the state’s entry into legalized marijuana.
DOUG’S DOPE DIARY … Tuesday, 5:50 p.m. – On my way to tonight’s big pot forum at the Spokane Convention Center. I know I’m headed in the right direction because I’m following a young guy who is so into weed that he has “Marijuana” festooned on the back of his bright blue nylon jacket.
In the first seven months of Washington’s privatized liquor system, the big winner may be Idaho. Business from Washington already was brisk in Idaho stores before Washington voters’ decision, with the backing of Costco and other retailers, in November 2011 to privatize sales.
The state Liquor Control Board, responsible for regulating the production and sale of marijuana in Washington under Initiative 502, is preparing to move ahead with implementation plans.
With a bicycle at his disposal, Marcus Hayes will travel to stores in Hillyard, Spokane Valley, or just north of downtown to fill the orders of the residents on “the wall” at Sprague and Browne. Hayes, 35, who lives on the streets, relies on access to low-cost, high-octane beers, shared by a small group of transients who congregate at the corner near the bus and train depot. But since the state Liquor Control Board agreed last April to the city of Spokane’s request to establish a mandatory alcohol impact area downtown, Hayes has become a willing peddler, feeding his habit by going to stores in outlying areas.
A request by Seattle city officials to allow bars and restaurants to serve liquor after the 2 a.m. cutoff got a cold reception at a Spokane public hearing Monday. More than 70 people showed up at the fourth and final public hearing held statewide by Washington’s Liquor Control Board on a city of Seattle petition that could open the door to letting some businesses sell booze until 6 a.m.
It’s not exactly a gold rush. More like a mad dash to not be left behind when liquor sales go private in June. On June 1, the state’s roughly 330 liquor stores will be replaced by privately owned locations, possibly 1,200 or more of them, a change enacted by voter approval of Initiative 1183 last fall.
Since a ban on cheap fortified beers and wines took effect last year in downtown Spokane, incidents related to public intoxication in the area have dropped. The state Liquor Control Board agreed last April to the city’s request to establish a mandatory alcohol impact area downtown, preventing liquor licensees from selling 32 low-cost, high-octane beers and wines in single cans and six-packs for off-premise consumption in an effort to combat chronic public intoxication.
One Spokane bar is restricted from serving shots after 1 a.m. Down the street, a restaurant is allowed to serve only “upscale wine and microbrews.” Around the corner, bartenders aren’t allowed to mix liquor and energy drinks. The restrictions, contained in what the city of Spokane calls Good Neighbor Agreements, have been around for five years but just recently became a new point of contention between city officials and local bar and restaurant owners.
OLYMPIA – Voters rejected two ballot measures this year that would have gotten Washington state out of the liquor business, but supporters of changing the state’s current system of selling booze are already looking to make legislative changes. While it’s unlikely full privatization will be seriously considered by lawmakers, a few lawmakers plan to introduce bills on the issue again. And officials with the state Liquor Control Board say they are working with Gov. Chris Gregoire to address frustrations over the current system.
OLYMPIA – Retailers have a week to clear millions of dollars worth of alcoholic energy drinks from their shelves after state regulators banned them Wednesday, citing the hospitalization of nine dangerously drunk college students last month. The emergency ban, similar to those in Michigan, Utah and Oklahoma, takes effect next Thursday. Washington’s rule targets beer-based drinks that also feature caffeine, such as the malt liquor energy drink Four Loko.