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."
By Steve Elliott
Some entrepreneurs who spent months and thousands of dollars on their dream of opening a retail cannabis shop are very disappointed that they didn't get a license in Washington state's marijuana lottery. Some of them are so disappointed, in fact, that they plan to sue.
Ryan Kunkel and Joel Berman, owners of the Have A Heart chain of medical cannabis dispensaries, with seven locations in the Puget Sound area, applied for recreational marijuana retail licenses in Seattle, Ocean Shores and Snohomish County, reports Valerie Bauman at Puget Sound Business Journal. The men said they have invested more than $250,000 already in their effort to open recreational marijuana stores.
Kunkel and Berman plan to file a lawsuit against the Liquor Control Board this week; they are unhappy with the method the LCB used for its license lottery. They argue the Board allowed people to game the system by applying multiple times for the same location, effectively giving themselves more chances to win a license.
By Steve Elliott
The winners have been announced in Washington state's lottery for marijuana retail licenses, and those whose names weren't drawn are predictably unhappy. Beyond being dissatisfied with the results, there are also rumblings from some quarters about the lottery process being rigged.
Entrepreneur Shy Sadis -- who applied for licenses to open marijuana stores in Bellingham, Tacoma and Snohomish County -- wasn't chosen to receive any licenses, and he told the Seattle Weekly's Nina Shapiro that he's going to talk to his lawyers about suing the Washington State Liquor Control Board over "gaming the system" to favor certain winners.
The state will only allow a limited number of licenses for marijuana stores in each jurisdiction around the state, as it implements cannabis legalization measure I-502. Seattle, for instance, is allocated 21 stores (it currently has close to 200 medical marijuana dispensaries, which is why the LCB is gunning to shut those shops down next year). The state also limited to three the number of licenses each business can hold.
Sadis said he had considered the "straw application" approach, in which people he knows would act as straw applicants who would apply for licenses on his behalf under their own names, increasing his odds of getting picked.
A legal marijuana farm organizer on Vashon Island in Washington state says he is selling a rare David Choe painting to fund his organization.
“It is a fabulous painting that I bought in 2006 just as David Choe was becoming well known," said painting owner Shango Los. "Now that he is an international superstar, I’d like to cash out and invest in American marijuana agriculture. I’m sure David Choe would approve.”
Los said he doesn't grow marijuana on Vashon Island, but rather founded the Vashon Island Marijuana Entrepreneurs Alliance which organizes food farmers and other entrepreneurs who wish to move into the legal marijuana market.
“We have an opportunity to let marijuana grow beside our traditional food crops and save the family farm," Shango said. "The only way this will happen though is with grass roots community organizing and that takes money.”
The sale of the painting will fund the continuing efforts of VIMEA, according to Los.
Along with the painting, Shango is selling a shirt he was wearing at the gallery when he bought the painting upon which David Choe wrote “DAVE CHOE RUINS SHIRTS” and an image in marker.
The eBay auction is for both the painting and the shirt. The painting has an auction estimate of $5,000 to $10,000, with a starting bid of $3,500.
“David Choe’s talents have made him a heavily watched artist," Los said. "I expect that the rare opportunity to buy an original painting by him in a private sale will draw out both avid David Choe fans and savvy art investors alike.”
The auction ends May 14, Los said.
Congressional vote expected this month to restrict DOJ enforcement against state-compliant patients like the "Kettle Falls 5"
Medical marijuana patient Larry Harvey, 70, is traveling to Washington, D.C., this week to persuade Congress to stop funding unnecessary federal prosecutions like his, according to patient advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA). Harvey is one of the "Kettle Falls 5," a federal medical marijuana case that is scheduled to go to trial next week in Spokane, Washington on May 12.
Despite repeated claims by the Obama Administration that it is not targeting individual patients, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has spent more than $3 million so far to prosecute five patients who were each growing less than 15 plants in accordance with state law. If convicted, the DOJ could spend as much as $13 million to send them to prison.
The "Kettle Falls 5" is made up of mostly family members, including Harvey, his wife Rhonda Firestack-Harvey, 55, her son Rolland Gregg, 33, daughter-in-law Michelle Gregg, 35, and friend of the family Jason Zucker, 38. All five are legal patients with serious medical conditions.
Prosecutions Contradict Obama Administration Statements, Policy Against Targeting Sick Patients
Family members from a rural area of eastern Washington are expected to go to trial next month on federal marijuana charges, despite the Obama Administration's repeated claims that it does not target seriously ill patients. The federal trial of the "Kettle Falls 5" is scheduled for May 12, pending several pretrial motions which will be heard on April 22 before U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle in Spokane.
Because of marijuana's illegal status under federal law, patients like the "Kettle Falls 5" are typically prohibited from raising a medical necessity or state law defense in federal court.
Federal agents raided the property of Larry Harvey, 70, and his wife, Rhonda Firestack-Harvey, 55, at their rural family home near Kettle Falls, Washington in August 2012. In addition to seizing 44 premature marijuana plants, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) confiscated the family's 2007 Saturn Vue, $700 in cash, medicated cookies and marijuana stored in the family freezer, along with legally owned firearms.
The five federal defendants, including Mrs. Firestack-Harvey’s son, Rolland Gregg, and daughter-in-law, were all qualified patients in compliance with Washington state law. Defense attorneys say the cannabis being cultivated on a remote corner of the family's 33-acre property was strictly for personal use.