Wednesday, July 2, 2014

WEED WEDNESDAY: Washington prepares for a shortage and Katie Couric sits down with Colorado's governor for 'The Dope on Pot'

Posted By on Wed, Jul 2, 2014 at 3:02 PM

Welcome back to Weed Wednesday, your weekly dose of pot news. Wondering what this is about? Click. Looking for our previous marijuana coverage? Click. Got a question or tip? Email me at [email protected]

First, a quick reminder that we're finishing up a series of stories about the new recreational marijuana industry in Washington and we want your stories about pot. More details and how to submit here.

We're now just a few days from the Washington State Liquor Control Board issuing the first 15-20 licenses for retail marijuana stores in the state, and there's still plenty to fret about. As you've noticed by now, this has taken significantly longer than a similar effort in Colorado, where stores opened on Jan. 1. State officials say that's because Colorado's well-regulated medical marijuana market made it easy to simply fold in recreational sales to those businesses. In Washington, medical marijuana exists in a sort of gray legal area without the types of licensed growers and sellers the state wants to have on the recreational side. But that's not Washington's only complicating factor. The AP's Gene Johnson has this great rundown of our many issues.

From the story:

Among the frustrated are growers who have been waiting months for permission to start raising their bar-coded plants; advocates who wish more public health messaging had been done by now; and would-be pot vendors like O'Neil who say bad luck, minor oversights on their applications, or errors by state officials have torpedoed otherwise promising efforts.

Washington's Liquor Control Board expects to issue the first 15 to 20 marijuana retail licenses July 7, months later than first expected, but it's not clear how many of those shops are ready to open. Board staff said last week only one shop in Seattle is prepared for its final inspection.

Randy Simmons, the board's legal pot project manager, predicts a "bumpy road," with an initial shortage of stores and marijuana alike. Many businesses that got lucky in the pot-shop lottery in April have since been disqualified, such as by being too close to schools or playgrounds. Others haven't finished building or made deals to buy pot from licensed growers.

"This is a gold-rush mentality and everybody wants to get rich," Simmons says. "Some people just don't have an idea what they're doing — no clue at all. It slows down the process."

Read more here.

Among the biggest issues: a weed shortage. Everyone is talking about this. Essentially, the expected shortage is because of the limited number of growers who've been licensed in the state and the fact that they weren't licensed — and therefore able to start growing — until March. This is likely to be reflected in price, as it was in Colorado, where the lowest grade of recreational weed was about $270 an ounce on the first day of sales.

Meanwhile, Wenatchee is still dealing with a lawsuit filed last month that could have big ramifications for legal pot. A man hoping to open a cannabis retail store sued the city over a requirement that to get a business license, businesses must follow federal law — effectively a ban on marijuana businesses in the city. Some on the Wenatchee City Council had argued that cities cannot ignore federal law banning marijuana, a theory attorney Hilary Bricken, who filed the complaint, says undermines the promise of citizens’ initiatives. But now the city is looking to state instead of federal law for their defense.

“It’s not our job to enforce federal law. That isn’t necessarily what we’re trying to do,” City Attorney Steve Smith, who plans to file the city’s response to the lawsuit this week, tells the Inlander. “It is our function to regulate the businesses within the city.”

Since Initiative 502 didn’t explicitly require local governments to enforce the new law, Smith argues that cities can refuse to allow the new businesses. (The state attorney general issued a similar, though non-binding, opinion in January.) Smith says the case could see a trial verdict by the end of the year, but that further appeals could take up to two years. In the meantime, on top of the de facto ban, Wenatchee’s city council has passed a six-month moratorium on any marijuana businesses within city limits while it considers whether to ban pot outright.

And in Pullman, hopeful pot sellers are still struggling to find locations that meet state requirements and new city zoning rules, reports the Daily Evergreen.

The Seattle Times has a new pot blog and a new installment in their Seed to Sale series. The Times also reviewed Evergreen, a documentary about pot legalization in Washington. The film played during the Spokane International Film Festival this year, but there are no plans for another showing in Spokane. You can find it on DVD this fall. Here's the film's website and here's the trailer:

The Cannabist has a series of stories looking at the first six months of legalization in Colorado and, in honor of the milestone, the governor sat down with Katie Couric at the Aspen Ideas Festival for a conversation titled "The Dope on Pot." Yes, really.

A Denver medical marijuana dispensary has filed a lawsuit over IRS fines charged for paying certain taxes in cash. Traditionally, the IRS requires businesses to pay quarterly federal payroll taxes by bank wire. Of course, marijuana businesses struggle to find banks willing to give them accounts, so this becomes impossible. Read more in this Denver Post story.

Finally, enjoy this Colbert Report segment. About 4 minutes in, we get to a clip of a Fox News contributor connecting pot and the liberal conspiracy to get more people interested in the World Cup. Or something. "They're rollin' out the marijuana," he says. "They're gettin' everybody high and they're getting everybody to watch more and more entertainment." 


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