Larry Harvey argues that new Congressional measure should prevent the DOJ from prosecuting his family
A motion to dismiss has been filed in a widely watched federal medical marijuana case involving a family from rural northeastern Washington State. Larry Harvey, 71, of the Kettle Falls Five, has moved for dismissal of his case or an order preventing further prosecution. The motion relies on the recently enacted Congressional measure that bans funding for medical marijuana enforcement by the Department of Justice (DOJ).
"Prosecuting persons who may be operating in compliance with state medical marijuana laws prevents states from implementing their own laws," reads the brief written by Harvey's attorney, Robert Fischer. Harvey's motion argues that state law is undermined by discouraging lawful patients from accessing medical marijuana because of the threat of federal prosecution.
Harvey also argues that "federal prosecutions take away Washington's authority to determine for itself whether someone is in compliance with its laws or not."
Harvey's motion to dismiss comes just a month after President Obama signed the so-called "Cromnibus" spending bill, which included Section 538, an historic rider that prohibits DOJ funds from being spent to block implementation of state medical marijuana laws. Advocates argue that federal prosecutions like that of the Kettle Falls Five run contrary to the spirit and letter of the law now in effect.
By Steve Elliott
Washington has a weed headache. Implementation of the state's weak, badly written marijuana legalization measure, Initiative 502, continues to be plagued with problems. When legal recreational cannabis shops opened last summer, there was a shortage of weed, and high prices. Now, six months later, there's a glut of weed, as growers are left sitting on hundreds of pounds of product -- but prices are still absurdly high at the 502 stores.
A big autumn harvest of outdoor cannabis from the eastern part of the state flooded the market, reports the Associated Press. That would normally mean plummeting prices at pot shops, but even as growers are worried about going belly up, pot shops continue to charge $23 to $25 a gram -- more than twice the going price either on the street or in medical marijuana dispensaries.
"It's an economic nightmare," said Andrew Seitz, general manager at Dutch Brothers Farms in Seattle.
Licensed growers had harvested 31,000 pounds of marijuana as of Thursday, according to state data, but Washington's few licensed pot shops had sold less than 20 percent of that. Many marijuana users in Washington, faced with ridiculously out-of-synch prices in state marijuana stores, have opted to stick with the less expensive pot they buy on the black market, or at medical marijuana dispensaries.
Mary's Medicinals on Tuesday announced the release of Mary's Journal, which it called "the first mobile app designed to help patients track and balance their use of cannabis medicine while simultaneously contributing valuable data to research efforts."
Mary's Journal is designed to help patients monitor their medicinal cannabis use, while gathering anonymized data on use preferences, patterns and results. The information that patients contribute will be paramount in Mary's quest to validate the efficacy of cannabis, leading to clinical trials and research that will help thousands of patients more successfully battle ailments including PTSD, depression, cancer and epilepsy.
Mary's Journal compiles data including medical conditions, treatments (including all types of cannabis and non-cannabis medicines) symptoms, dosing and other preferences -- then checks in with users regarding current symptoms and medication at certain points throughout the day. With planned upgrades, users will ultimately be able to learn more about how their symptoms change based on different dosing strategies and track additional health details, according to Mary's Medicinals.
"Most of the knowledge about cannabis medicine that is available today is based on what we have learned directly from patients," said Nicole Smith, CEO, Mary's Medicinals. "Mary's Journal now enables patients to share information with each other and with researchers on a global scale, which will lead to clinical studies, improved protocols for canna-based medicinal use and the creation of innovative, effective products.
Sunday 10 AM - 5 PM
305 Harrison Street
Seattle, WA 98109
With the coming of recreational marijuana legalization in Washington state, Seattle Hempfest has put on a suit and tie. A flourishing medical industry and an emerging statewide legal recreational cannabis market mean cannabis businesses are blooming, according to Hempfest, and now the former civil disobedience "protestival" is now providing a showcase for the newly legal businesses.
The Hempfest Business Show, taking place August 15 and 16 at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall, "is about creating an environment in which these industries flourish & mature," according to Seattle Hempfest.
Running concurrent with Hempfest, which will be taking place a few blocks away, "Hempfest Business will connect business owners with the suppliers of cultivation equipment, packaging, marketing, web design, insurance, nutrients, and the myriad of other products and ancillary services it takes to run a cannabis business in the modern age."
By Steve Elliott
A Superior Court judge in Pierce County has ruled unconstitutional a state law which forbids doctors and other medical professionals from advertising medical marijuana authorizations in their advertisements.
Judge Elizabeth Martin in a Friday ruling said the law violates both the Washington and U.S. constitutions by curbing free speech, reports Adam Lynn at The News Tribune of Tacoma. While the state might have an interest in regulating such advertising, Martin ruled, banning it completely is unacceptable.
"I find the statute impermissibly overbroad as it chills even informational speech aimed solely at public education," Judge Martin wrote in her decision.
The ruling came in a case brought by Scott Havsy, a Pierce County osteopath. He took the state to court last year after the Washington Department of Health punished him for advertising his willingness to authorize patients' use of medicinal cannabis.
The sanctions levied against Dr. Havsy have been on hold while the court case plays out. Havsy, who has practiced for more than 30 years, authorizes a number of patients for medical marijuana.
Attorney Mark G. Olson of Everett argued that the state's ban on medical marijuana advertising hindered the ability of patients to find doctors willing to authorize them for cannabis use.
By Steve Elliott
One Washington state Republican lawmaker is proposing that medical marijuana dispensaries in the state stop selling marijuana. Wait, what?
Yes, state Sen. Ann Rivers -- who really should talk to some actual medical marijuana patients about their needs -- is proposing that dispensaries stop selling smokable dried cannabis flowers, reports Sarah Aitchison at the Puget Sound Business Journal. Her bill would limit medical dispensaries to cannabis-infused edibles and concentrates.
Rivers seems to be trying to find a middle ground between the complete elimination of patient collective gardens and dispensaries proposed by her Democratic counterpart, Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles of Seattle, and continuing business as usual for the dispensaries, which are seen as competition by the recreational marijuana stores which have opened as I-502 is implemented.
"Recognizing the health concerns relating to smoking marijuana, the legislature intends to prohibit the sale of products that must be smoked at medical marijuana retail outlets," says a draft of the measure reports The Associated Press.
By Steve Elliott
The author of Washington state's anemic marijuana legalization law I-502 is defending and even urging prosecution of medical marijuana dispensaries in Seattle.
Criminal defense attorney Alison Holcomb of the ACLU of Washington, who wrote Initiative 502, wrote a December 11 email to Seattle officials about their plans to create new rules for medical marijuana in the city, reports Heidi Groover at The Stranger.
“If escalation of sanctions were deemed appropriate, the city has authority to prosecute repeat license offenses as gross misdemeanors, initiate civil asset seizure and forfeiture, or even refer cases for felony prosecution,” Holcomb wrote in the email.
Seattle is looking for ways to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries; Holcomb's words were part of a chain of emails exchanged among city council members, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray's staff, and others, including Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, who seems just as weirdly intent on eliminating dispensaries as is Holcomb.
Holcomb, like Holmes, purportedly opposes the dispensaries because they aren't regulated -- but she also opposes regulating them. She argued against a new licensing plan the mayor's office has floated for dispensaries, hoping to leave the coup de grace -- complete elimination of the shops -- to the Legislature in the upcoming session.
By Steve Elliott
Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes was a big supporter of Washington state's marijuana legalization measure, Initiative 502, all along. Now it seems Holmes is so gung-ho on 502, he wants to extinguish current medical marijuana dispensaries, which existed for years before recreational legalization was approved in 2012, and force medicinal cannabis patients through the state's expensive recreational pot stores.
Holmes in a policy memo on Monday urged the Washington Legislature to fold medical marijuana into the state's recreational system, reports Evan Bush at The Seattle Times. He also pushed Seattle city officials to crack down on medical marijuana dispensaries which he claims aren't following state law or city regulations.
"If you're a commercial (medical marijuana) operation lacking a 502 license, it's a felony operation. Period," Holmes said.
Holmes claimed some of the business aren't operating with proper permits, and that others have neglected to pay local business and occupation taxes. He said some of them opened after the Seattle City Council passed an intended moratorium on new dispensaries in the city.
The city attorney said he published the wide-ranging memo to clarify any confusion about medical marijuana laws. Holmes said he hopes his memo "reframes" the debate about medical marijuana.
By Steve Elliott
The rules of Washington state's recreational marijuana legalization law, I-502, require a sample tested from every lot of marijuana. But how useful is that testing?
The program is having some success detecting substances like yeast, mold and bacteria, reports Evan Bush at The Seattle Times. About one out of every 10 batches of marijuana fails and can't be sold in recreational pot shops, according to Washington State Liquor Control Board data.
Potency testing, meanwhile -- which measures levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive component, shows Washington weed is widely variable. Recreational marijuana averages about 16 percent THC in the state, but about 2.5 percent of samples test above 28 percent.
Laboratory directors from the state's 12 licensed pot-testing facilities said they are forming working groups to lobby the Liquor Control Board for more oversight of lab methods.
"Part of it is to invite more regulation," said Brad Douglass, scientific director at the Werc Shop, one of the 12 labs licensd by the state.
Randy Simmons, with the Liquor Control Board, claimed that the system is off to a good start. "The majority of what's out there on packages is correct," he said.
"The lab side is emerging," Simmons said. "As it matures, I think all those things that have been missed ... or things we find out we should be looking for, will all be changed."
“There’s no superlative that could adequately describe the impact that 2014 has had on the cannabis industry.”
~ Aaron Smith, NCIA
In honor of the one-year anniversary of Colorado’s history-making opening of legal adult-use sales of marijuana, the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) is looking back at the most monumental year in the history of the cannabis industry.
“There’s no superlative that could adequately describe the impact that 2014 has had on the cannabis industry,” said NCIA executive director Aaron Smith. “The success of adult-use legalization in Colorado and Washington, the overwhelming public opinion in favor of medical marijuana, and the steady march of policy change at both the state and federal levels have created an entirely new world.
“NCIA is proud to work on behalf of the businesses, consumers, patients, and advocates all striving to build a cannabis industry that is successful, responsible, engaged in our communities, and treated fairly by policy-makers,” Smith said.
Nearly every week brought new ground-breaking developments, but here are NCIA’s top six moments in a year that has changed the industry forever.
1. Legal adult-use sales begin in Colorado.
By Steve Elliott
The soon-to-retire chairwoman of the Washington State Liquor Control Board -- which is in charge of recreational marijuana in the state, and perhaps soon medicinal cannabis as well -- has admitted she used medical marijuana this week to control pain after a knee replacement surgery.
Sharon Foster said her doctors sent her home with heavy painkillers, reports The News Tribune of Tacoma. "I have enough oxycodone to go on the black market," she said.
But Foster decided opioids weren't for her. She opted instead this week to use marijuana, which she's been in charge of regulating for two years now. She obtained some cannabis-infused brownies for that purpose.
“By the time I went to bed, which was maybe an hour and a half or two hours after I ate this brownie — piece of brownie — I didn’t feel anything,” Foster told the News Tribune’s statehouse reporter. “So all I know is, I was relaxed enough to go to sleep. So if I was high, I don’t know it,” she claimed.
Foster reportedly used the brownies Sunday night, Monday night, and again Tuesday night.
By Steve Elliott
Due to the onerous nature of Washington state's regulations on the legal marijuana industry, including an overbearing tax scheme, the legal marijuana stores which have opened as the badly written I-502 is implemented are reportedly having trouble turning a profit -- even at $30 a gram.
Despite brining in more than $440,000 in sales since July, Station 420 in Union Gap is still in the red financially, according to owner Adam Markus, reports Mike Fault at the Yakima Herald-Republic.
"We have yet to make a profit here," Markus said. "And there are a lot of other people who got into this just thinking they were going to be millionaires in a year, and now they're having a hard time."
Washington state had $15.6 million in marijuana sales in November, more than double the figures from August, and pot shop owners say prices have come down by as much as half since July as supplies have increased.
But then there's the pesky fact that the prices of legal weed are still roughly double to triple those on the black market. Consumers aren't morons, and if the "guy you know down the street" is selling righteous pot for $10 a gram (a typical price both on the street and in the medical marijuana community), who wants to pay $30 a gram for the "privilege" of buying the stuff in a legal store?
U.S. Senate expected to take up measure restricting Justice Department funding for such prosecutions later this week
A new judge assigned to hear the widely watched federal medical marijuana case of the Kettle Falls Five has continued the federal trial scheduled to begin today in Spokane, Washington. Senior Judge Fred Van Sickle has been replaced by Judge Thomas O. Rice, who set a new trial date of February 23, 2015.
The change in trial date comes as the U.S. Senate plans to consider a measure later this week that would prohibit Department of Justice (DOJ) funds from being spent on medical marijuana enforcement in states where it's legal. Advocates say that federal prosecutions like the Kettle Falls Five, as well as pending asset forfeiture cases in California, would be impacted by the passage of such a measure.
After the House made its historic 219-189 vote in May to curb DOJ funding for medical marijuana enforcement, U.S. Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) filed a similar budget amendment in the Senate. The bipartisan amendment filed in June is expected to be voted on in a House-Senate conference committee as early as Wednesday.
By Steve Elliott
“I never thought it’d be a problem to give money away,” said marijuana farmer Randy Williams, the owner of Fireweed Farm, just north of Prosser, Washington. School officials on Monday flatly turned down a $14,000 donation from Williams, claiming they were "taking a stand" against youth marijuana use.
"We're not taking it. End of story," snapped Ray Tolcacher, Prosser School District superintendent.
"That's a mistake on their end because they're not helping anything," Williams said after visiting the school district office last week to try to make the donation. Tolcacher, who was out at the time, called the would-be donor on the telephone on Monday to turn down the money.
Williams said his next choice for the donation is the Boys & Girls Club of Benton and Franklin Counties; that youth nonprofit will "evaluate internally," according to executive director Brian Ace. If they turn him down, he might offer the money to the VFW, Williams said, reports Ross Courtney of the Yakima Herald-Republic.
Williams, one of the few legally licensed marijuana farmers in Yakima Valley, promised at a first-ever marijuana auction November 15 at his farm to donate the proceeds of one "low-grade" lot to local schools. The weed brought in about $13,500; Williams kicked in the difference to make it an even $14K.
Latest ‘Consume Responsibly’ ads feature a young child looking at a glass of wine and cookies, and it reads: ‘Some juices and cookies are not for kids: Keep “adult snacks” locked up and out of reach’
The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) is launching billboards this week in Denver and Seattle that encourage parents to keep marijuana out of reach of children. The ads are part of a broader public education campaign urging adults to “consume responsibly” in states where marijuana is legal.
The billboards feature a child looking at what could be a glass of grape juice or a stemless glass of wine and a few cookies that might or might not be infused with marijuana. It reads, “Some juices and cookies are not meant for kids,” and urges them to, “Keep ‘adult snacks’ locked up and out of reach.”
MPP spokesperson Mason Tvert was accompanied at the Monday unveiling of the billboard by Jane West, a marijuana consumer and mother of two small children, who serves as director of Women Grow, a national organization dedicated to helping women influence and succeed in the cannabis industry.
“We need to treat marijuana like any other product that is legal for adults and not meant for children,” West said. “A marijuana-infused cookie might look like a regular cookie to my four-year-old, just as a glass of wine might look just like grape juice. Whether it’s marijuana, alcohol, or household cleaning products, it’s our job as parents to keep them locked up and out of reach.”