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.
By Steve Elliott
When limited marijuana legalization measure Initiative 502 was on the Washington state ballot back in 2012, one of the main selling points touted by its supporters was the the measure would help eliminate racial disparities in low-level marijuana enforcement -- the kind that exist practically everywhere, and which were the subject of a recent American Civil Liberties Union study. But sadly, it appears I-502 didn't make a lot of difference in that regard.
African Americans were still disproportionately cited by Seattle police for using marijuana in public in the first six months of 2014, reports Bob Young at The Seattle Times.
In a report required by the Seattle City Council, the police had to admit that of 82 tickets written for public cannabis consumption in the first half of 2014, 37 percent of those went to black people. Blacks account for just 8 percent of Seattle's population.
Fifty percent of the tickets for public consumption went to whites, who are 70 percent of Seattle's residents.
Of course, racially discriminatory enforcement of marijuana laws was one of the main arguments for legalizing pot in the first place. A national study by the ACLU found that almost four blacks are arrested on marijuana charges for every white person arrested.
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.