By Steve Elliott
High taxes and a low number of storefront licenses mean that revenue from legalized marijuana sales in Washington state could be "minimal" this year, according to Moody's Investor Service.
State-licensed recreational marijuana stores opened in Washington on July 8, and the state estimated it will collect $51.2 million in revenues during the upcoming 2015-2017 biennial budget, reports Robin Respaut at Reuters. But Moody's said on Monday that high taxes, marketplace competition and supply challenges could lower that number.
The ratings agency warned that Washington's sky-high excise tax of 25 percent -- applied at three points along the supply chain, producer, processor and retailer -- and sales taxes of 9.6 percent might deter consumers. Combined, the trio of 25 percent taxes means an effective rate of 44 percent tax, Moody's calculated, reports Niraj Chokshi at The Washington Post.
"The tax structure in Washington state is likely to be a major deterrent for consumers who do not see the value in obtaining a product from a storefront as opposed to a medical dispensary," Moody's analyst Andrea Unsworth wrote in the report, entitled "Tax Revenues from Legalized Marijuana Will Be Minimal in Washington State."
By Steve Elliott
A Washington marijuana businessman is suing the state's Liquor Control Board, saying the agency rejected his application to retail cannabis over a minor technicality. The suit alleges that the board put him and his partners at risk of substantial financial loss.
The suit, filed by Pete O'Neil in King County Superior Court, seeks to overturn the Liquor Control Board's decision to deny a license for C&C Cannabis to sell marijuana in Lynnwood, Washington, reports Valerie Bauman at Puget Sound Business Journal. The application was rejected for only having an electronic signature, instead of both a written signature and an electronic one, according to O'Neil, who manages C&C.
Officials at the Washington State Liquor Control Board refused to comment on ongoing litigation.
The board could be subjected to dozens or even hundreds of similar lawsuits as it makes its way through the first year of implementation of I-502, a limited legalization measure approved by 54 percent of Washington voters in 2012. The first cannabis stores opened on July 8, and more are gradually opening for business as the supply from growers increases; 334 retail licenses were awarded statewide.
More lawsuits by disappointed entrepreneurs like the one filed by O'Neil are expected. Many business people feel wronged by what they say is a system which set them up for failure.
By Steve Elliott
Seattle's only state-licensed marijuana store -- closed after quickly running out of pot last week, in its first few days of business -- plans to reopen again late next week.
"We will be open on the 25th with enough product to remain open, with continuous supplies from then on," claimed Cannabis City manager Amber McGowan, reports Jake Ellison at the Seattle PI.
Cannabis City was the first marijuana shop in Seattle to open, on July 8, and made it just three days before running out of weed. McGowan said the store is waiting until the 25th to reopen so that they can actually stay open for business instead of closing and reopening every few days.
By the 25th, McGowan said, "we expect to have two consistent large volume suppliers on board, with a third a few days later; with that, then, we hope to be able to conduct a more normal type business operation with no future closures ... that's the plan, at least."
The shop will only have ready-to-smoke marijuana flowers for sale this month; McGowan said they plan to have cannabis oil and vape pens in August.
Two other marijuana stores are almost ready to open in Seattle, according to the Washington State Liquor Control Board, which was put in charge of implementing limited legalization measure I-502 in the state.
Photo of Cannabis City owner James Lathrop at his shop in Seattle: Elaine Thompson/AP
A marijuana industry job board website, 420careers.com, has reached out to Mike Boyer, the first Washington state citizen to purchase recreational marijuana and to get fired for using recreational marijuana, find a new job in the marijuana industry.
Boyer was the first person to purchase recreational marijuana in Washington’s new marijuana industry and was fired hours later after his employer recognized him on multiple TV stations that aired interviews of him and the historic moment.
Boyer said he’s “been officially terminated for violation of the drug use policy,” but that he hopes he can “spin this and get a job in the marijuana industry… It’s a new industry, they need qualified people.”
“The marijuana industry is one of the few industries creating large quantities of job opportunities in the US, and businesses are in need of qualified, law-abiding employees like Mr. Boyer," said Dan Kingston, president of 420careers.com.
"More than 10,000 marijuana industry jobs have been created in Colorado alone," Kingston said. "And hundreds, if not thousands, of more jobs will be created in Washington and other states that legalize marijuana for medical and/or recreational use."
Currently trending marijuana jobs offered on 420careers.com range from marijuana writers to advertising sales people, budtenders to cultivation experts, security to administrative positions, and more. Presently, marijuana jobs are in the highest demand in Colorado, California, Washington, Oregon, and Arizona, where the marijuana industries are booming.
By Steve Elliott
Twenty months after Washington's voters approved limited marijuana legalization measure Initiative 502, the first licensed recreational cannabis stores in the state opened on Tuesday to long lines. With only four shops open statewide of 24 that received licenses on Monday, prices were high and competition was nonexistent.
Thomas Snyder of Richland went to Altitude in Prosser at 9 a.m. for Tuesday's grand opening. "I didn't actually go inside," Snyder told Hemp News on Wednesday. "I decided we couldn't afford two grams (at $30 each), so I let my wife go in while I watched the kids in the car."
"The place was very professional," Snyder told us. "The line was maybe an hour and a half wait when we got there an hour after they opened. Twice while I was waiting, the staff came outside and handed out bottled water and soda."
But inquiring minds want to know: Was the marijuana any good?
"Not too bad at all," Snyder said of the weed's quality. "It could have used a longer cure, but that's what happens when it's all rushed to get to market."
Altitude is only serving 300 customers a day until later this month, when the supply catches up with the demand, according to Snyder, who is an authorized medical marijuana patient.
The first stores where adults can legally purchase marijuana in Washington State are set to open on Tuesday, roughly six months after Colorado launched what is so far seen as a successful effort to regulate sales of the drug there. The Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) on Monday issued the state's first 24 marijuana retailer licenses.
At least three retail shops will open on Tuesday, reports Tony Dokoupil of NBC News: Cannabis City Seattle, Top Shelf Cannabis in Bellingham and The Freedom Market in Kelso.
The state faces a huge backlog for licenses, with only 18 license reviewers trying to process thousands of applications. The first grower approvals didn't happen until March, which left very little growing time to stock the shelves.
That's given rise to a predictable shortage of recreational marijuana, and more and more irate entrepreneurs. Some have already gone under as opening day was delayed again and again, due largely to Washington's foolish decision to scrap the existing medical marijuana market and create the recreational marijuana market from scratch.
By Steve Elliott
It's been almost a year and a half since Washington state voters approved Initiative 502, the limited marijuana legalization measure, in 2012. But there still isn't a single state-licensed cannabis store open in the state -- and once the shops finally open, presumably next week, Washington could then face a marijuana shortage.
What's wrong with this picture? How did Colorado get so much more right in implementing legalization than did the weed-friendly Evergreen State? Well, Colorado -- unlike Washington -- built its recreational marijuana infrastructure on the already existing medical marijuana system, rather than foolishly opting, as did Washington, to build an entirely new system from the ground up.
Wait a minute, you may be saying. That's just crazy. They had, in place, a system of retailing marijuana -- and proprietors experienced in doing so -- but they are completely eliminating that system and turning the business over to a new set of retailers? Yes, you're getting the idea -- and that has resulted in a bureaucratic nightmare, reports Jordan Larson at Vice.
Producers, processors and retailers have had trouble getting the necessary licenses and space to retail, warehouse, and grow cannabis.
By Steve Elliott
The first group of about 20 retail marijuana stores will open in Washington state on July 8, if all goes according to plan. Of course, we were also told that the first stores would already be open by now, so a wait-and-see attitude might be best.
The Washington State Liquor Control Board plans to issue the first retail marijuana licenses on Monday, July 7, and the new licensees will use the first 24 hours to get the cannabis into their store tracing program, reports Jake Ellison at the Seattle P.I. Once that's done, the stores can open on July 8, according to Brian Smith, communications director for the LCB.
Pricing at the stores, opening as part of the implementation of limited legalization measure I-502, isn't expected to be very consumer-friendly. "I would assume $20 to $25 a gram until the producers reduce their prices," said Michael Perkins, who said he expects to open a store in Seattle on July 8.
Perkins said that even at those prices, "I expect to run out of product."
Patient advocates produce new ads in an effort to educate public, hold federal policymakers accountable
The medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is running two new 30-second TV advertisements on MSNBC, CNN, and HLN in eastern Washington state every day this week. The ads draw attention to the Kettle Falls 5 case -- a federal prosecution against patients lawfully growing for their own personal use -- and spotlight how Members of Congress voted last month on a House measure to curb this type of federal medical marijuana enforcement.
One of the ads focuses on Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), who grew up in Kettle Falls and now represents the same district where defendant Larry Harvey lives. On May 30, Rep. McMorris Rodgers voted against a bipartisan measure that would protect her constituents by restricting Department of Justice (DOJ) spending on enforcement in states that have legalized medical marijuana.
Despite Washington's 16-year-old medical marijuana law and the questionable enforcement practices occurring in her own district, McMorris Rodgers has consistently opposed medical marijuana reform in Congress.
By Steve Elliott
With the first stores selling recreational marijuana expected to open in July, a dark cloud looms over implementation of cannabis legalization measure I-502 in Washington state: Attorney General Bob Ferguson's legal opinion that municipalities can ban the supposedly legal pot shops. Now, a lawsuit has been brought by a man who was denied a license to sell marijuana in central Washington.
At least 10 counties and cities in the state have already banned marijuana businesses, reports Kirk Johnson at The New York Times. Sixty-nine more municipalities, and 12 counties, have instituted moratoriums on pot businesses, according to the Municipal Research and Services Center.
A man who was denied a license to sell marijuana in the central Washington town of Wenatchee, right in the middle of apple-growing country, is challenging the right of local governments to ban cannabis businesses, and also raising the possibility that the law legalizing marijuana could come under "sharp legal scrutiny," as the Times puts it.
Plaintiff Shaun Preder has been told by Wenatchee that he won't be getting a license to sell marijuana, because pot is still illegal under federal law. Wenatchee apparently believes it needs the federal government's permission before issuing any business licenses.
By Steve Elliott
The Drug Policy Alliance on Tuesday released an official statement on marijuana-infused products -- "edibles" -- which it says "are an important part of the burgeoning marijuana market." The DPA recommends laboratory testing, labeling, and regulation of the products.
The statement applies to cannabis-infused foods, drinks, tinctures, "or any other product infused with marijuana that is often consumed orally," according to the DPA.
"For many consumers, these products are a better option than smoking," the statement reads. "Infused products are also vital to people who use marijuana for medical reasons, because their effects last longer and can be manufactured with doses that meet patients' needs in a reliable way. However, proper regulation is necessary to ensure reliability and safety."
According to DPA, the products should be regulated and tested to ensure safety, quality and reliability of information. DPA recommends labeling edibles "with detailed information to ensure that consumers are informed about what they are consuming and educated on how to safely consume, and that all edibles should be kept away from children."
DPA is advocating for four main principles when it comes to cannabis infused products.
1. Edibles must be kept away from children.
2. Edibles must be clearly labeled.
By Steve Elliott
Alternaturals, Inc., on Thursday announced that it has chosen Kush Creams, a Washington-based medical marijuana grower and distributor, to manufacture and distribute what it is calling its new medicinal cannabis product, 5 Hour High.
According to the company, 5 Hour High is a shot-style drink, similar to the energy drinks found in convenience stores -- with one big difference. This juice-like drink delivers a dose of THC, marijuana's main psychoactive ingredient, that it says "has been specially formulated to improve mood and maintain energy levels."
The company said it expects non-smoking methods of ingesting THC to become more popular now that "many states have decriminalized the multi-billion dollar marijuana industry."
Alternaturals said it wants 5 Hour High to be sold in "most" medical marijuana dispensaries where medicinal consumption of cannabis is legal.
"We are extremely excited to be working with Kush Creams on this project because in an emerging market, you really have to go with the best if you want to have a long term stake in this industry," said Emmanual Gyamfi, CEO at Alternaturals. "We haven't found another company like them, and we are confident that we will both be very successful with this product line."
By Steve Elliott
Washington state loves coffee and cannabis. And Washingtonians are about to be able to enjoy both things together -- and I'm not talking about smoking a joint with your morning cuppa joe. I'm talking about getting a two-way buzz -- caffeine and THC -- from cannabis-infused coffee.
Marijuana coffee has already been available for years in Washington state's medical marijuana dispensaries, but it's set to hit the now-legal mass market this summer. The cold-brewed cannabis-infused coffee, called Legal, is expected to debut in early July, according to product developer Adam Stites of Longview, Wash., reports Ron Dicker at The Huffington Post.
"It's an alert, creative high," Stites said, calling it "the wake and bake drink," reports Josh Kerns at My Northwest.
Each bottle will contain about 20 milligrams of THC, according to Stites. He says that small dose is enough to make it similar to having "a nice IPA or glass of wine," he claimed. "We don't want to pack so much THC into every one of our drinks that it's unpleasant, especially for people that are just getting into marijuana," he said.
By Steve Elliott
In a refreshing bit of "if it's legal, it's legal," parolees in Washington state will be allowed to smoke marijuana starting on June 1, according to the Washington Department of Corrections.
The new policy will permit the state's 14,000 parolees to use cannabis like any other adult in the state under I-502, the legalization measure approved by voters in 2012, reports Chris Ingalls at King 5.
Interestingly, the DOC didn't change its policy until recreational marijuana was legalized by state voters; medical marijuana patients on parole have for years been denied their medicine in Washington state, despite their demonstrated medical need for it.
"We're putting some changes into effect so that we won't routinely test offenders in the community for THC," said Annmarie Aylward, assistant secretary at the Department of Corrections.
The DOC routinely tests parolees' urine for traces of six types of drugs, including THC (the main active ingredient in marijuana), but that list will be reduced to five, starting on June 1.
"We don't want them held to that level when, as a citizen, you wouldn't be held to that level either," Aylward said.
But the Department of Corrections insists it isn't "endorsing" the use of cannabis.
"There's no way the Department of Corrections is endorsing the use of marijuana," Aylward said. "We are simply aligning with state law."
By Steve Elliott
Magical Butter, a Seattle-based company which sells a botanical extractor turning raw marijuana into a form that can be infused into food and beverages, has unveiled a food truck that it says is the world's first mobile eatery featuring cannabis-infused food.
The bright pink former school bus, officially known as the SAMICH truck (Savory Accessible Marijuana Infused Culinary Happiness), debuted at the Cannabis Cup in Denver on April 20, reports Sky McCarthy at Fox News.
The SAMICH truck isn't limited to typical pot treats like brownies and cookies. It features the Samich (sunbutter and jelly), Bin Mi (Vietnamese style pork sandwich), the Bronco (barbecue pulled pork sandwich), PhaReal cheese sandwich, and Kushie tomato soup.
All of the treats are made with Magical Butter's patented MB2 device, which the company says any cook can use. Each item sold from the truck has between 30 and 100 milligrams of THC, enough to give an average person a pleasant high. All dishes have at least one infused ingredient, and some have more.
"Cooking with cannabis in comparison to other herbs is far more challenging," said chef Joey Galeano of Magical Butter. "The challenge comes from properly dosing each ingredient with a delicate balance between taste and potency."