By Steve Elliott
With licensed producers of marijuana bringing in autumn's outdoor harvest, retailers who own the recreational cannabis stores created by limited legalization measure I-502 are hoping to lower prices enough to diminish the black market -- which was one of the main justifications for the law passed by state voters two years ago.
But the most that store owners like Mary Van de Graaf, owner of Mill Creek A, one of two licensed marijuana shops in Union Gap, can hope for is making a bit of a dent. "We'll slow it down, yeah,"
Van de Graaf said, reports Ross Courtney of the Yakima Herald-Republic.
So far, even I-502 store owners like Van de Graaf have to admit that legalizing recreational marijuana has done almost nothing to combat black market street sales, where dealers don't pay taxes or check the ages of their customers.
Washington's brand of limited "legalization" apparently hasn't yet made any dent at all in illegal grows. In fact, there's an increase this year in illegal grows on tribal lands, public lands and in back yards, according to Jodie Underwood, a spokeswoman for the federal Drug Enforcement Administration's regional office in Seattle.
On Monday, law enforcement confiscated 20 pounds of processed marijuana and 43 plants in Zillah, Washington; police arrested two men the same day for stealing medical marijuana from a home in Selah.
420careers.com, a marijuana industry job listing site, on Monday reported that the swiftly developing cannabis industry is generating an extraordinary and historic amount of jobs throughout the United States and Canada.
“The marijuana industry is producing more new jobs than many other industries in the United States,” said Colby Ayres, director of marketing at 420careers.com. "Each state that passes a medical or recreational marijuana law usually generates hundreds, if not thousands, of new jobs.
"Colorado currently has over 10,000 jobs associated with the marijuana industry and Washington state is quickly creating hordes of new jobs since legalizing marijuana in July," Ayres said.
Twenty-two states permit medical marijuana and two states (Colorado and Washington) permit recreational marijuana for adult use. Nearly a dozen other states have medical marijuana legislation initiatives and an estimated five states will vote to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use by 2016.
It has been predicted that over a dozen more states are likely to legalize recreational marijuana for adult use by 2018, which would potentially grow upwards of a $10 billion industry in the United States.
Some of more popular marijuana jobs currently offered on 420careers.com are: budtenders (dispensary patient consultants), cultivation experts, dispensary managers, writers, sales positions, delivery drivers, security staff, inventory staff, and various administrative and business development positions.
By Steve Elliott
Alison Holcomb trusts poop more than people. The author of Washington state's recreational marijuana law has suggested that the city of Spokane test its sewage for traces of cannabis in order to more accurately measure use by residents.
Holcomb, a lawyer with the ACLU, proposed the idea at a Tuesday meeting of the Spokane City Council's marijuana policy subcommittee, reports the Associated Press.
About 50 city leaders and residents make up the subcomittee, which attempts to deal with what cannabis legalization means for Spokane, a city of about 210,000, reports Jessica Glenza at The Guardian.
"We don't have really good data on usage and perceptions of harm," said city councilman Jon Snyder. "It's funny how the sewage thing has really captured people's imagination."
A University of Washington scientist liked the idea. "It's always good for a chuckle, but it actually does work," said Caleb Banta-Green, a researcher at the UW's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute.
Banta-Green, an epidemiologist, has tested sewage in Oregon and Washington for the presence of hard drugs like methamphetamine and cocaine. "In some ways, I think my most surprising finding is that it works," he said.
By Steve Elliott
Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said on Monday that he will drop all tickets issued for using marijuana in public that were issued through the first seven months of 2014, because most of them were written by one police officer, Randy Jokela (pictured), who disagrees with cannabis legalization.
In a briefing to the Seattle City Council, Holmes said he is moving to dismiss about 100 tickets issued by the Seattle Police Department between January 1 and July 31, reports Gene Johnson of the Associated Press.
His office also said it would be seeking a refund for 22 people who had already paid their $27 ticket.
One single officer, Jokela, wrote about 80 percent of the tickets, writing on one that he thinks pot legalization is "silly."
Jokela was temporarily reassigned, and the department's Office of Professional Accountability is supposedly investigating.
Photo of Randy Jokela: Brandi Kruse/KIRO Radio
By Steve Elliott
Some recreational marijuana retailers in Clark County, Washington, are planning to sue cannabis growers, claiming they're working together to keep prices high.
The class action suit is being filed on behalf of I-502 marijuana retailers everywhere in the state, not just in Clark County, with the eventual hope of bringing down the sky-high cost of weed for consumers, reports Tim Becker at KOIN 6.
"There's a reason that the prices are so high here, and it is not the free market at all," said attorney Liz Hallock, who said she hasn't finished writing the lawsuit.
"The charges are unfair competition, anti-trust, and the per se violations are collusion and intent to price fix," Hallock said.
Legal marijuana costs about $35 a gram in Clark County. Meanwhile, in Colorado, the other state where recreational cannabis is legal, a gram is only $15.
It's that $20 difference that Hallock said is caused by marijuana producers' artificially inflating prices to retailers.
"When producers here in Washington are asking for $12 to $13 a gram, they're marking up the prices 1,300 percent, which does not benefit the consumer at all," Hallock said.
The larger growers are setting the high prices, and smaller producers are following their lead, according to Hallock, who spent the last two months investigating and gathering evidence that the growers' conduct violates Washington's Consumer Protection Act.
The Cannabusiness Accelerator event on September 19 will provide the first job fair in Seattle dedicated to job opportunities in the marijuana industry, according to organizers.
Aimed at budding cannabis professionals in Washington state, the Cannabusiness Accelerator event will be held at the Silver Cloud Hotel–Broadway in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.
Organizers said the event will serve as a locus of networking and informational know-how as well as a showcase for program partners which include Your Green Contractor, CannaGuard Security, The High Road Interior Design, and Competitive Edge Engineering.
“The Cannabusiness Accelerator helps connect dispensary and grow facility owners and managers with technology, people and solutions,” said Cannabusiness Accelerator CEO Stan Wagner. “We are spreading knowledge and best practices in this growing space.”
Nathan Mendel, president of Your Green Contractor, Inc., specializes in building grow houses, and has been spreading his know-how from Colorado to Washington to Massachusetts. He said he forward to helping build facilities in the newest state to legalize commercial marijuana
“The legal cannabis trade in Colorado has been an absolute boon to the local economy," Mendel said. "The commercial real estate market upswing has been well documented with industrial vacancy rates at record lows, but the commercial building contractor market has been positively affected as well.
By Steve Elliott
A bicycle officer who was briefly reassigned after it was discovered he had personally written 80 percent of the tickets for public marijuana use issued in the city this year has returned to his regular job, the Seattle Police Department announced Monday afternoon.
Police claim they're still investigating the conduct of Officer Randy Jokela, who has been with the force 24 years and who seems to be having real trouble adjusting to the implementation of I-502, the limited marijuana legalization measure approved by Washington state voters in 2012.
Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole and Pierce Murphy, director of the SPD's Office of Professional Accountability, "conferred and ultimately decided that there was nothing that precludes this employee from returning to his normal duties," according to department spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb.d
While the department did not name their officer -- apparently they aren't all that proud of him -- Jokela, was identified by sources within the department as a patrolman who joined the force in 1990. He wrote 66 of 83 tickets for public use of marijuana issued in the first half of 2014, O'Toole said.
By Steve Elliott
For almost six weeks now, Seattle's lone recreational marijuana store, Cannabis City, has struggling to stay open, repeatedly running out of legal cannabis priced around $25 a gram. Now, a second pot store, Herbal Nation, has finally opened in the Emerald City.
The new state-licensed marijuana store, at 19302 Bothell Everett Highway in Seattle, held its grand opening on Monday, and staff said they believe they have enough weed to stay open seven days a week, reports Jake Ellison at the Seattle PI.
"Judging by the initial line at opening, there will be plenty of folks trying to run 'em dry," Ellison reports.
"It's a very exciting day for us, but it's more of an exciting day for the community," said Lauren Downes, spokeswoman for Herbal Nation. "Washington state voted this in and we feel privileged to be in the position that we're in.
"We do not consider ourselves to just be retailers of cannabis," Downes said. "We are here to set a standard in the industry, and implement positive change and evolution in the recreational cannabis industry."
By Steve Elliott
A federal judge has dismissed a Washington lawsuit challenging the state's authority to tax marijuana.
The case was dismissed last week by U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman for lack of jurisdication, reports the Associated Press.
Martin Nickerson, who operates the Northern Cross Collective Gardens medical marijuana dispensary in Bellingham, sued because at the same time he was being prosecuted for marijuana distribution, he was also targeted by the state Revenue Department for not collecting taxes on cannabis sales.
Nickerson had argued that he couldn't pay the tax without incriminating himself, violating his Fifth Amendment rights. His suit named Washington Governor Jay Inslee, Attorney General Bob Ferguson and state tax chief Carol Nelson, reports CBS Seattle.
His complaint argued that the state could not "grant authority to local and county government to authorize licensing and collect taxes on an activity that is a crime" under federal law.
Nickerson's medical marijuana dispensary, Northern Cross Collective, opened in April 2011. He argued that he should be protected from tax liens and other legal actions as he defends himself from federal criminal charges stemming from raids on his property and home in March 2012.
By Steve Elliott
The very first edible recreational marijuana products are now being sold legally in Washington state, a month after cannabis itself went on sale in state-licensed stores.
Due to strict regulations from the Washington State Liquor Control Board, no kitchens had been approved for producing marijuana edibles last month when cannabis sales began on July 8.
Al Olson, the marijuana editor at CNBC.com, bought the first approved edibles in Bellingham, Washington, at a store called Top Shelf Cannabis, reports Katy Steinmetz at Time. Olson bought about $200 on Green Chief "Crazy Carnival Nuts," "420 Party Mix," and "Twisted Trail Mix," as well as on a vaporizer pen and vape pen battery.
The marijuana-infused nut clusters, trail mix and party mix cost around $25 per bag.
Top Shelf opened at 10 p.m. on Wednesday in order to be the first store to sell the products, owner John Evich said, reports Trevor Hughes at USA Today. "It's something interesting and fun," Evich said. "Going down a list of menu items -- I think it's something new for people."
The Herban Legends Collective scholarship fund announced on Monday that it has received a donation of CBD-rich tincture from LeBlanc CNE.
Located in White Center, Seattle, Washington, Herban Legends in a prepared statement said it has "a strong commitment to making medical marijuana available to as many patients as possible."
LeBlanc CNE is a grower and broker of medical cannabis with a firm belief that healthcare is a right, not a privilege. To that end, LeBlanc tithes itself and donates medical cannabis to Herban Legends.
LeBlanc's most recent donation was of a tincture, Batch #5, rich in cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive compound responsible for many of marijuana's healing effects.
CBD has been used with children suffering from seizures, PTSD, Crohn's disease, chronic pain, and a number of other conditions.
"LeBlanc is proud to support Herban Legend Collective's goal of bringing medical marijuana to an otherwise underserved neighborhood," said Jerry Whiting, founder of LeBlanc CNE. "How can anyone say ‘no' to alleviating the pain and suffering of others?"
According to Whiting, Batch #5 is an alcohol-based tincture made with cannabis strains like Harlequin and Cannatonic, as opposed to strains of marijuana high in THC favored by recreational users.
Batch #5 was made using 190-proof Everclear. LeBlanc CNE said its whole plant extraction method captured a wide range of cannabinoids and terpenes.
By Steve Elliott
Back in January, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson released an opinion which concluded that, as drafted, limited legalization measure I-502 does not prevent cities and counties in the state from banning marijuana businesses. But on Thursday, Ferguson moved to join three cannabis lawsuits filed against the cities of Wenatchee and Fife for doing exactly that -- banning marijuana businesses.
"As attorney general, my job is to make sure the will of the people is upheld," the Attorney General said, reports the Kent Reporter. "If any party to these lawsuits seeks to overturn state laws, my office will be there to defend the law."
Businesses that applied for marijuana licenses are suing the cities in Chelan County and Pierce County Superior Courts to challenge ordinances that block them from opening. Attorney General Ferguson's office is intervening to defend I-502 as the law.
The Attorney General's Office is authorized by law to intervene in lawsuits to protect the interests of the people of the state, according to Ferguson's press release. The office frequently intervenes, for example, in environmental and consumer protection cases.
By Steve Elliott
Eighty percent of the marijuana citations issued by the Seattle Police Department during the first half of this year were written by just one pot-hating cop -- and now that officer has been reassigned.
Staff reviewing data to prepare the department's first biannual report on marijuana enforcement found that 66 of 83 citations for public cannabis use were given out by just one officer, according to Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole, reports Eric M. Johnson at Reuters.
"In some instances, the officer added notes to the tickets," Chief O'Toole said.
In one case, she said, "the officer indicated he flipped a coin when contemplating which subject to cite." In another, he referred to the voter-approved legalization of marijuana as "silly." Washington voters in 2012 approved Initiative 502, a limited legalization measure, but public pot use still isn't allowed.
Some of the notes written on tickets by the officer in question requested the attention of City Attorney Pete Holmes -- a vocal supporter of legalization -- and were addressed to "Petey Holmes."
The officer's conduct was reported to the police's Office of Professional Accountability, according to O'Toole, who added that he won't be performing patrol duties during the investigation.
By Steve Elliott
The Senate delegations from Colorado and Washington are seeking clarification from the Obama Administration on the regulations which will impact the legal marijuana trade in those two states.
Democratic Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall of Colorado and Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray of Washington on Monday wrote a letter to White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and Attorney General Eric Holder, calling for "a clear, consistent and uniform interpretation and application" of federal marijuana laws in relation to their home states, reports Jonathan Topaz at Politico. The letter warns about the current uncertainty surrounding federal cannabis laws.
"We believe the federal government should support Colorado and Washington state's effort to establish a successful regulatory framework in a way that achieves greater certainty for local officials, citizens, and business owners" in the marijuana industry, the senators wrote.
The uncertainty regarding the implementation of federal cannabis laws "may undermine our states' ability to regulate the industry adequately," the senators said.
All four Democrats said they look forward to continuing to work with the Administration to ensure lawful and successful implementation of marijuana legalization in their states.
By Steve Elliott
Recreational marijuana sales only began two-and-a-half weeks ago in Washington state, and it didn't take the price gouging long to get started.
Ramsey Hamide, the manager of Main Street Marijuana, a recreational cannabis store in Vancouver, Washington, said that when he saw what came in a shipment of pot from a new grower this week, he said no thanks, deciding to close his business's doors until he can get a more variety, lower prices and better quality, reports Sue Vorenberg at The Columbian.
Hamide said some growers and processors are trying to charge him $6,000 per pound for marijuana, reports Stephen Mayer at KATU. He said that's about triple the normal price.
"I'm not going to let these guys hold us hostage anymore," Hamide said of the growers who he says have been selling low quality marijuana for high prices. "It's hurting the entire system, and it needs to stop. By continuing to play ball with these guys, it's just making things worse."
Hamide said Main Street Marijuana would likely remain closed through the weekend and possibly well into next week.