Packed Hearing On New Pot Law

WASHINGTON:  They came in suits and cowboy hats, with cropped gray hair and long ponytails, and they filled one room at Seattle City Hall and spilled into another, about 400 strong.

Some had waited decades for an event like this. Some thought they’d never see it. They were there to express views about the state’s new legal-marijuana law enacted last fall by Initiative 502.

“Wow, there’s one heckuva lot of interest in 502,” said Sharon Foster, chair of the Washington state Liquor Control Board, the agency charged with implementing the new law. The crowd had started lining up three hours before the event.

Foster told audience members if they kept their remarks to two minutes they’d get a “brownie point.” That prompted several in the crowd to giddily ask, “What kind of brownie?”

Unlicensed Marijuana Businesses Will Soon Close In Unincorporated King County

WASHINGTON:  King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg and King County Sheriff John Urquhart announced today a King County effort aimed at closing down unlicensed marijuana businesses operating in unincorporated King County.

Fifteen such businesses operating in unincorporated King County were sent letters earlier in the week informing them that they do not have state-approved licenses for the sale of marijuana and must close down their establishments.

Initiative 502, which was approved by voters in 2012, requires the state to create a system for the licensed production, processing and retail distribution of marijuana with no requirement for medical need. Recent amendments to Initiative 502, adopted by the State Legislature, bring medical marijuana into the state licensing system and eliminate “collective gardens.” Retail operations licensed by the state offer the only legal way to sell marijuana, and any unlicensed sale of marijuana is illegal.

“These stores are illegal,” said King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg.  “They are unlicensed, untaxed, and they are undermining Washington State’s new law. How local jurisdictions deal with this issue may well determine the success of the entire law,” he added.

Inslee Signs Recreational Marijuana Reform Bill

WASHINGTON:  Washington state’s recreational marijuana law has a new tax structure under a measure signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Jay Inslee.

The new law eliminates the current three-tier tax structure and replaces it with a single excise tax of 37 percent at the point of sale – a change sought by the legal-pot industry. To encourage more cities and counties to allow marijuana businesses, the bill directs the state to share pot revenue with jurisdictions that do so. It also allows them to adopt more flexible zoning for where pot grows and stores can be located.

The passage of Initiative 502 in 2012 allowed the sale of marijuana to adults for recreational use at licensed stores, which started opening last year. Earlier this year, the Legislature passed and Inslee signed into law a measure that regulates the state’s medical marijuana system and reconciles the two markets.

The tax structure change is significant for marijuana businesses. Previously, pot shops charged their customers 25 percent as required so they could pass that money along to the state. But because of the way the law was written, they had to pay federal income tax on that money they collected from the customer, even though it didn’t go toward their bottom lines.

Let The Real Work Of Reconciling Medical And Recreational Pot In Tacoma Begin

WASHINGTON:  Tacoma City Council members got what they wanted on Tuesday.

Now the question is: What next?

When the state Senate and House signed off on legislation that – pending Gov. Jay Inslee’s expected signature – will rein in Washington’s wild west medical marijuana market this week, it was not just a long time coming. It also was a redeeming moment for lawmakers.

The move, which cities like Tacoma have long advocated, is designed to shutter rogue unlicensed dispensaries and bring all legal pot sales under the purview of the Initiative 502-created recreational market by July 2016.


Spokesman-Review Editorial: Lawmakers’ Tweaks Of Pot Law: Some Smart, Others Not

WASHINGTON: Lawmakers are replanting Initiative 502 before it’s had a year to establish roots. Some of this cultivation is warranted, some is premature.

The House and Senate are working on ways to harmonize the unregulated medical marijuana market with the regulated recreational one. Voters legalized medical marijuana in 1998, but the Legislature has failed to establish a regulatory framework for distribution and sales. This has caused headaches for municipalities ever since. Spokane Valley, for instance, has declared a moratorium on new medical marijuana busineses as it awaits state action.

Both chambers wisely passed bills that fold medical marijuana into the regulatory structure for recreational pot created by the Liquor Control Board. The bills create a voluntary registry for authorized patients who would be able to purchase greater quantities and gain access to tax exemptions.


Money To Fight Youth Marijuana Use Should Stay Put

WASHINGTON:  Many Washingtonians voted for Initiative 502 in hopes that legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana would lead to smarter ways to deal with abuse of the drug.

The initiative didn’t merely promise legal pot stores. It also forbade sales to anyone under 21. More important, much of the tax revenue from the sales would flow into a “dedicated marijuana fund” that would finance drug treatment and media campaigns to persuade youth to stay away from pot.

This wasn’t a minor appendage to the initiative; for some, it was I-502’s chief virtue. Without the aggressive public health effort, legalization threatened to send an undiluted message that the adult world considered marijuana no big deal. The prospect of controlling adolescent use was the best reason to vote for I-502, in our view.

State legislators are now poised to demolish that core promise of the law.

The Senate early Friday morning approved a bill that would vaporize the marijuana fund. After breaking the piggy bank, the measure would move the cash into the general operating budget and into public education.

Guest: Cities And Counties Have A Right To Ban The Sale Of Marijuana

WASHINGTON: Marijuana legalization under Initiative 502 is a bold experiment. As attorney general, I am defending that state law rigorously. But one question threatens to unravel marijuana legalization in Washington state and, potentially, across the country: Can cities and counties ban the sale of marijuana within their local jurisdiction?

When asked to answer that important question, I reviewed the law carefully and concluded that, yes, they may. Local governments have broad authority to pass their own laws unless a state law explicitly says they can’t. Simply put, the language of I-502 does not prohibit local bans. The drafters could have included such a provision, but they did not. Many marijuana advocates were disappointed in this conclusion, but my job is to go where the law takes me, whatever the outcome.

Some I-502 supporters claim that my legal conclusion undermines marijuana legalization. In fact, while my opinion is grounded solely on an objective reading of the law, it also protects I-502.

Here’s how: Although I-502 legalized marijuana under state law, it did not change federal law. The United States still bans marijuana, and federal officials could prosecute Washington residents even if they are following I-502. Some cities and counties, in defending their bans on marijuana sales, have already argued in court that federal law completely invalidates (or “pre-empts”) I-502.

The Millionaire Who Wants To Control Washington’s Weed

WASHINGTON:  The state of Washington’s legal marijuana market is at a major crossroads, with its fate to be determined by pending legislation that seeks to address a conflict in the system.

In the big picture, the choices to be made along the path ahead boil down to a struggle between business and patient interests. The pending legislation at the heart of the issue seeks to bring Washington’s largely unregulated medical-marijuana market under the rubric of state oversight.

In November 2012, as part of a statewide referendum known as Initiative 502, voters in Washington, by a margin of 56 percent to 44 percent, approved the creation of a legal recreational-marijuana market served by growers, processors, and retail shops. However, the referendum was silent on the treatment of medical marijuana.

“We are for regulation of medical-marijuana businesses and for standards,” said Kari Boiter, a Washington State-based spokesperson for Americans for Safe Access, a medical-marijuana patient advocacy group. “But we represent the vulnerable patients’ voice in the process, and we want to make sure their rights are protected.”

Seattle City Attorney Proposes Marijuana Home Grows, Lounges And Merging Medical System

WASHINGTON:  Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes on Monday issued a sweeping policy proposal that calls for allowing people to grow pot at home, establishing vapor lounges and folding unregulated medical-cannabis dispensaries into the new state recreational system.

Holmes was a prime sponsor of Initiative 502, passed by voters in 2012 to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana.

His call comes just before the start of a legislative session in which the future of medical marijuana shops could be hotly debated.

“They’re creating a public safety nightmare, frankly, and they’re undercutting the 502 stores because they’re unregulated and untaxed,” Holmes told KIRO 7.


Puyallup City Council Will Vote Tuesday On Proposed Ban On Marijuana Businesses

WASHINGTON:  Puyallup leaders are finally set to act on regulations for retail marijuana businesses this week after months considering the city’s options.

The Puyallup City Council plans to vote on a proposed ban on marijuana retailers, producers and processors at its regular meeting Tuesday night. Puyallup is the largest city in Pierce County that has yet to decide how – if at all – to implement state Initiative 502, approved by Washington voters more than two years ago.

A ban on pot operations in the city of more than 37,000 people would conflict with a recommendation from the city’s planning commission early this year.

The course change is intended as a stop-gap solution until some unanswered questions are addressed in the state’s new marijuana market.