Marijuana Regulation

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Move over, Hempfest; there’s a new show in town, and on the same weekend.

CannaCon is coming to the Tacoma Dome, and organizers hope to make it the biggest cannabis expo in the country.

“Picture the Seattle Home and Garden Show, but with cannabis,” said Bob Smart, a medical marijuana retailer who is organizing the event with the help of the Marijuana Business Association.

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Come summer, marijuana stores will open for business across Washington. The new legal pot market is modeled on a system the state adopted 80 years ago when Prohibition ended.

I wondered if there are other parallels between the legalization of alcohol then and marijuana today.

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Applicants to grow recreational pot in Washington could have their state licenses in hand two weeks for now. But they won’t be able to produce as much marijuana as they originally thought.

Washington’s Liquor Control Board Wednesday instituted new limits designed to avoid a market glut.

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Economic forecasters are predicting that the state's new legal recreational marijuana market will bring nearly $190 million to state coffers over a four-year period starting in mid-2015.

The forecast released by the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council on Wednesday showed that $51 million in revenue is expected for the 2015-2017 biennium from marijuana production and sales. An additional $138.5 million is expected for the next two-year budget.

Matilde Campodonico / AP Photo

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson says cities and counties can block licensed marijuana businesses from operating.

In a long-awaited opinion Thursday, Ferguson says the state's legal marijuana law, Initiative 502, leaves local governments the option of adopting moratoriums or bans that prohibit licensed grow operations, processing facilities or retail shops from their jurisdictions.

Brennan Linsley / AP Photo

Some Washington lawmakers concerned about a possible pot-business freeze-out want to keep cities and towns from adopting marijuana-business bans.

Ten representatives in the House on Tuesday introduced a bill that would require cities and counties to cooperate with the state Liquor Control Board in terms of allowing licensed recreational marijuana gardens, processing facilities and stores within their jurisdictions. Local governments would have to treat those enterprises the same as any other business that attempts to locate within their boundaries.

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Leaders of the Yakama Nation in central Washington say they see little benefit to sales or farming of legalized marijuana on their traditional lands. And the tribes are making moves to prevent anyone from operating a pot business on an area that adds up to one-fifth of the state’s land mass.

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Washington state could be facing a curious economic problem: too many pot growers.

More than 2,600 applications have been submitted to produce the marijuana that will be sold at state-licensed stores when Washington's legal marijuana industry opens for business this year.

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Washington state is looking at a major overhaul of its medical marijuana system, to avoid competition with the recreational market and to avert any crackdowns from the federal government.

The state's Liquor Control Board on Wednesday approved its final recommendations to the Legislature about how it believes the largely unregulated medical system can be brought under the umbrella of Initiative 502.

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The amount of marijuana smoked, eaten and otherwise consumed in Washington each year is double the original projections, according to a long-awaited study released Wednesday by the RAND Corporation.

The findings come as Washington prepares to license hundreds of new marijuana businesses.

Associated Press

New figures from Washington's Liquor Control Board show a big jump in marijuana business applications as this week's deadline for submissions nears.

The board said Tuesday it has received 2,444 applications to grow, process or sell cannabis under Washington's recreational pot law passed by voters last year. As of a week ago, that figure was just under 1,700.

As Washington moves to legalize recreational pot, the U.S. Department of Justice is prioritizing preventing so-called “leakage” to other states like Oregon and Idaho.

Barcodes will help the state track marijuana from seed to sale. But technology alone won’t keep Washington pot in Washington. And some think the concern about leakage is overblown.

Associated Press

Marijuana business license applications keep rolling in in Washington.

The state Liquor Control Board says it has received 1,696 applications from people seeking permission to grow, process or sell cannabis under the new recreational marijuana law.

Associated Press

New figures from the Washington State Patrol show that more drivers have tested positive for marijuana since the state legalized the drug last year.

In the first six months of 2013, the patrol's crime lab says, 745 people tested positive for marijuana. Typically there are about 1,000 positive pot tests on drivers in a full year.

Associated Press

Pot entrepreneurs in Washington can apply for a business license beginning Monday, Nov. 18. The state now has a team of 14 license investigators ready to vet the applicants.

Becky Smith with the Washington Liquor Control Board says investigators will be sleuthing for hidden owners and out-of-state financial backers, as well as other violations of the rules.

Justin Steyer / KPLU

When is someone too stoned to drive? Washington's new marijuana law includes a new way to answer that question: a blood limit for the drug.

It's supposed to set a standard just as clear as the .08 blood alcohol content police use for drunk drivers. But one year after voters legalized pot, the line is looking almost as blurry as ever.

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Seattle attorney Kurt Boehl is happy to think he's contributing to the success of Washington's grand experiment in regulating marijuana by advising his clients on how to navigate the industry's legal complexities.

But there's a worry that his efforts could earn him an ethics complaint. After all, marijuana is illegal under federal law, and lawyers aren't supposed to help their clients break the law.

Associated Press

This month, the state Liquor Control Board will begin accepting applications for marijuana business licenses. State officials on Monday released details about the application process. Here are four things you should know:

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One selling point of Washington's new legal marijuana law was that a huge chunk of pot-related tax revenue would be devoted to health coverage for low-income residents.

But it's not clear the money will go to health care after all.Under the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare," a would-be recipient of the pot taxes— Washington's Basic Health Plan—is being eliminated. The plan, which provided low-cost health insurance to the working poor, is being absorbed by Medicaid and will end Dec. 31, according the state Health Care Authority.

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Washington state’s new law allowing for personal marijuana use by adults won’t be recognized on the Yakama tribal reservation. 

The Yakama Nation has decided that despite the wish of state residents in voting to allow for marijuana use, they will not allow cannabis to be consumed or grown on the reservation.

Tribal attorney George Colby says in part, it is an issue of tribal sovereignty.

Associated Press

An advocate of the state’s medical marijuana industry says the state regulators’ proposed rules go too far.

State regulators on Monday proposed a sweeping overhaul of the industry, including a registry of medical marijuana patients. Ezra Eickmeyer with the Washington Cannabis Association says the proposed rules go too far.

Associated Press

Medical marijuana patients in Washington would have to register with the state if they don’t want to pay pot taxes. That’s just one recommendation issued Monday for sweeping changes to the state’s largely unregulated medical pot industry.

Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

As the proprietor of a medical marijuana dispensary in Seattle, Dawn Darington has seen patients wracked by AIDS and cancer. She's also seen "patients" who show up for a free pot brownie and never come back.

Now, Washington is pushing forward with plans to entice the latter into its new world of legal, taxed recreational pot, and advocates like Darington say they're worried about where that's going to leave those who actually need cannabis.

Washington’s Liquor Control Board has formally adopted 43-pages of rules for legal, recreational marijuana. The unanimous vote Wednesday caps a lengthy process that began after last year’s approval of legal pot.

There was no confetti, balloons or cake; more a sense of relief that the heavy-lifting is done. Washington’s three-person Liquor Board and its staff have been mired for nearly a year in the intricacies of how to regulate the growing, processing and selling of marijuana and marijuana-infused products.

Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes says he’s concerned the city may not have enough marijuana stores to meet demand when they open next year under Initiative 502. 

Holmes is concerned if there aren’t enough stores, people will buy their drugs out on the street. Seattle is set to have 21 pot stores when the rules go into effect.

Before legal marijuana in Washington hits store shelves, it will have to be tested. Special pot labs will check for potency, molds, foreign matter and bacteria like E. coli. It’s a key part of the recreational marijuana market approved by Washington voters last fall.

But setting the standards for how to lab-test pot turns out to be pretty complicated. And now some lab managers worry they won’t be ready in time.

Associated Press

The Washington State Liquor Control Board is tightening up its proposed regulation on where marijuana businesses can be located. Stores, processors, and grow operations will have to be at least 1, 000 feet from schools, parks and daycares—not by common path of travel, but as the crow flies, the board said Friday. 

The board had considered using streets and sidewalks to measure the distance instead of a straight line on the map. But board director Rick Garza says it has become obvious that the federal government did not agree.

Associated Press

The Department of Justice has let it be known that it won’t interfere with Washington’s legal marijuana industry. But when pot stores do come to Washington, they won’t be able to deposit their money in a bank or accept credit cards. That’s because the pot business, still illegal under federal law, is off-limits to federally-regulated banks.

King County Sheriff John Urquhart testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington D.C. Tuesday. He says businesses that deal only in cash present problems for police.

Associated Press

Gov. Jay Inslee is set to meet Tuesday with the two top federal prosecutors in Washington to discuss the Justice Department's concerns about the state's legal marijuana law.

U.S. Attorneys Jenny Durkan of Seattle and Mike Ormsby of Spokane are traveling to Olympia to speak with Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson. 

Associated Press

On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on conflicts between state and federal marijuana laws in Washington D.C., and King County Sheriff John Urquhart will be there to testify.