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Washington: Black Market Dealers Are Loving This State's Brand Of Legalization

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Washington state voters in 2012 voted to legalize recreational marijuana; when the first retail store opened in 2012, many hailed it as a great success for cannabis law reform. Now law enforcement authorities are preparing to close hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries across the state in just two weeks, in a move sure to please black market dealers.

What in the world is going on here? Why are MEDICAL dispensaries, of all things, targeted for closure, when patients actually need their cannabis for medicine instead of just wanting it to get high, like the recreational users? Well, boys and girls, that would be because the wealthy investors who bought I-502 recreational marijuana business licenses "bought" the law they wanted by applying generous campaign contributions to their favorite legislators down in Olympia.

When their competition, i.e., the mom-and-pop medical marijuana dispensaries, cleaned their clocks on both price and quality -- not to mention the sense of community on the medical side, especially in the farmers' markets, and the real expertise they offered when it comes to addressing symptoms with specific strains -- the recreational stores literally had the competition outlawed.

Colorado: New Cannabis Investment Law Allows Out-Of-State Money Next Year

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Passage of SB 16-40 allows out-of-state cannabis investments in Colorado to begin in 2017.

The new law removes the two-year residency requirement previously mandated for equity holders. Investors will still be required to meet other current ownership criteria, including criminal and financial background checks. Passive owners of less than 5 percent will be subjected to less extensive and more cost-effective screening.

LivWell Enlightened Health, a Colorado cannabis retailer, was part of an industry coalition composed of private businesses and major industry groups that lobbied and secured the passage of a bill that will allow out-of-state investors to have ownership interests in Colorado cannabis businesses.

“This levels the industry playing field a bit,” said Dean Heizer, chief legal strategist of LivWell Enlightened Health. “It puts us closer to competitive par with the many other states that don’t have residency requirements by freeing up capital for compliance investment, industry growth and by making it easier for small operators to access capital to survive.”

Oregon: Oregrown Brings One-Of-A-Kind Cannabis Cultivars To Eugene

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Oregrown Industries, a farm-to-table cannabis company based in Bend, Oregon, has partnered with TJ's Organic Provisions to offer four of Oregrown's exclusive flower cultivars at TJ's signature dispensary in Eugene.

"It's an incredible honor to see our flower on the shelves at TJ's, just has it has been an honor to carry their products in our own dispensary," said Oregrown co-founder Aviv Hadar. "TJ's has served Oregonians for many years with some of the finest organic cannabis in the world. They produce and carry only the very best."

Oregrown's handcrafted edibles, extracts and transdermal patches are available in dozens of quality dispensaries, Hadar said, but the partnership with TJ's Organic Provisions marks the first time Oregrown has distributed flower beyond the company's flagship dispensary in Bend.

"Oregrown's flower is very popular, and we sell out too quickly to share it beyond our own dispensary," Hadar said. "That makes this a special milestone. We set aside a limited quantity our core flavors and we are so excited to share them with TJ's loyal customers."

Exclusive Oregrown cultivars available at TJ's include Oregon Afghan, The One, Golden Ticket Chernobyl, and Oregon Diesel.

Oregon: Recreational Marijuana Edibles, Topicals, Extracts On Sale June 2

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While recreational marijuana customers in Oregon have been able to buy up to 7 grams of flower since last October, edibles, topicals and extracts haven't been available to them until now. That all changes on Thursday, June 2, when all of the above will be available -- albeit in limited amounts -- to adults 21 and older.

"Licensed and regulated sales have already created jobs and generated revenue for our great state, and the sky hasn't fallen like our opponents predicted," said Anthony Johnson, chief petitioner for Measure 91, which legalized marijuana in the state.

Starting on June 2nd, Oregon will take the next step as adults 21 and over will be able to purchase:

• One marijuana-infused edible per day containing up to 15 mg of THC
• Any amount of cannabis-infused topical products containing no more than 6 percent THC
• One receptacle of cannabis extract containing up to 1,000 mg of THC

Washington: Study Says Licensed Grows Can Meet Recreational, Medical Marijuana Needs

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A new study released on Thursday performed for the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board by the University of Washington supposedly shows that the amount of marijuana allowed to be grown by state-licensed I-502 producers in the state "is enough to satisfy both the medical and recreational marijuana markets," while ignoring the challenges of price, pesticides, and access which I-502 stores present for patients.

The study, "Estimating Canopy Size for the Washington Medical Marijuana Market," seems tailor-made to be used as political ammunition in the fight led by many I-502 recreational cannabis merchants to finish the shutting-down of Washington's medical marijuana community, which is already slated for extinction, at least as we know it, on July 1. After that date, any medical marijuana dispensaries which don't have an I-502 license will be required to shut down under penalty of law.

Washington: LCB Says Patients Can Grow 4 Plants Each, Up To 15 Per Household

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Multiple authorized medical cannabis patients living in the same residence in Washington state can grow up to four plants each, up to a total of 15 plants, without being on the patient registry, according to information received from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board on Thursday.

In answers to a Washington state medical marijuana patient advocate, Brian E. Smith of the WSLCB clarified the home growing rules for patients in the state. Only medicinal patients with a physician's authorization are allowed to cultivate cannabis in Washington without an I-502 cultivation license.

A qualifying patient not entered in the medical marijuana authorization database (Washington's euphemism for a patient registry) is allowed to grow up to four plants and possess up to six ounces of useable marijuana in his or her domicile, according to the LCB. This possession limit is per patient (RCW 69.51A.210) (3)).

Washington: Steep Hill Labs Releases Open Letter To Cannabis Community

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Steep Hill Labs on Wednesday released an open letter to the Washington State cannabis community encouraging a call to action to prevent contaminated cannabis from entering the patient and consumer supply chain.

"In a recent third party audit of certified I-502 laboratories in Washington State, cannabis contaminated with pesticides and microbiological organisms like E. coli are being passed by certain disreputable labs, which means unsafe products are getting onto shelves," said Steep Hill CEO Jmîchaele Keller. "This is unacceptable when technology and the proper science are in place to insure safety to prevent health risk to consumers and patients."

Recent independent third party testing, including that done upon the initiative of Ian Eisenberg of Uncle Ike's Pot Shop in Seattle, showed many samples of I-502 recreational weed had traces of pesticides, causing concern in the community, especially among medicinal users with compromised immune systems and liver function.

Keller said Steep Hill stands with other leading labs in the industry, like Trace Analytics, who apply scientific best practices to put public health first.

"Together we are here to uphold standards of quality in this industry for consumer protection, and we cannot succeed if other laboratories cheat the system," said Keller.

Uruguay: Cannabis Sales Stuck In Limbo Two Years After Legalization

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

More than two years after Uruguay became the first nation in the modern world to legalize and regulate marijuana, citizens are still waiting to buy the first legal cannabis at pharmacies.

Although Uruguay legalized in December 2013, the government has yet to implement a plan for mainstream cannabis commercialization, reports Ladan Cher at Foreign Policy, because they argue they can't rush such a complicated task. What was initially ballyhooed as the world's first controlled experiment of a nationwide marijuana economy is now stuck in limbo.

Uruguay has, rather than serving as a model for other countries hoping to legalize, become a cautionary tale about the difficulties which can be encountered on the way to creating a legal cannabis market.

The legalization law, passed with the support of groups like Regulación Responsable, permits Uruguayans who registered with the government to get cannabis in one of three ways: growing it at home, joining cannabis clubs (in which members grow a collective garden), or buying it from pharmacies.

But pharmacy sales are still unavailable, leaving only the 6,000 Uruguayans who grow their own plants with legal access to marijuana.

Washington: Board Revises Marijuana Rules; Product Returns Now OK

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

New rules from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) released on Wednesday include now allowing marijuana retailers to accept any open product return with the original packaging.

The draft rules are necessary to implement SB 5052, 2015 legislation which "aligns the medical marijuana market with the existing recreational market" (by, in effect, subsuming the medicinal cannabis market into the recreational market, greatly reducing access for patients).

Under the rules timeline, a public hearing would be held May 4, with the Board being asked to adopt the rules on May 18. If adopted, the rules become effective June 18, prior to the availability of regulated medical marijuana products. The draft rules incorporate public comments received at seven public hearings across the state starting last fall.

“”These rules are based on extensive public input,” said Board Chair Jane Rushford. “The Board was diligent in listening and seeking practical input on its draft rules.

Highlights

Some highlights of the rule revisions include:

• Revised the definition of “licensed premises” to include all areas of a premises where the licensee has leasehold rights and any vehicle assigned to transport marijuana.

Washington: Tipping Now Allowed In Marijuana Stores

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

If you know a particularly good budtender at a recreational marijuana store in Washington state, you can now legally show your appreciation by adding a little greenery to the scenery.

Monetary tipping of budtenders wasn't allowed in Washington recreational marijuana stores until Monday, March 14, when the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) revised its policy, effective immediately.

"The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) has received several inquiries asking about the practice of bud tender tip jars," Deputy Chief Steve D. Johnson said in an email under LCB letterhead. "In response, the LCB has reviewed their position and this bulletin is to clarify the policy on allowable tipping."

"Tipping has not been an allowable practice in a licensed retail marijuana location," the email reads. "This position was adopted based on an interpretation of RCW 69.50.357, and indications that prices of products were being manipulated based on the size of a tip to avoid paying excise tax.

Massachusetts: Lawmakers Plan To Ban Home Cultivation If Marijuana Legalized

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Massachusetts voters haven't even legalized marijuana yet, and already state lawmakers are planning how to gut important parts of the law, in case it passes.

A sharply worded Senate report released on Tuesday says that if voters legalize recreational cannabis in the state, lawmakers should promptly cancel their wishes by outlawing home cultivation, imposing high taxes, and prohibiting most edible products, reports Joshua Miller at The Boston Globe.

While the report from the Special Senate Committee on Marijuana claims not to take an official stance on the proposed ballot question to legalize, it repeatedly, and even shrilly, warns of legalization's supposed dangers. The authors claim that legalization could make it easier for children to access marijuana -- despite the fact that it would be limited to adults 21 and older, and black market drug dealers certainly aren't asking for ID currently.

The bipartisan 118-page propaganda piece, I mean "analysis," comes the same week Gov. Charlie Baker, Atty. Gen. Maura Healey, and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston published a scathing op-ed in The Boston Globe opp=osing legalization, and the Massachusetts Legislature's judiciary committee heard testimony on the ballot measure.

Washington: Board To Close Marijuana Retail License Application Window March 31

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) on Monday announced it will stop accepting marijuana retail license applications March 31 at 5 p.m.

The WSLCB had begun processing retail applications on Oct. 12, 2015, to accommodate additional demand and provide additional access points before the medical and recreational marketplace are merged on July 1, 2016.

“We are at the point where the number of highest priority applicants will exceed the number of available retail licenses,” said WSLCB Licensing Division Director Becky Smith. “We’ll meet the retail cap with priority ones and twos that we’re already processing.”

Retail Cap

On January 6, the Board adopted emergency rules to expand the number of retail marijuana outlets to "align the two markets," i.e., preside over the shutdown of medical marijuana dispensaries which weren't able to obtain a 502 license.

Based on staff’s recommendation, the former retail store cap of 334 was lifted to a new cap of 556. The recommendation followed an analysis of the entire marijuana marketplace by the state’s contracted research organization, BOTEC Analysis Corporation.

Priority System

SB 5052, the so-called "2015 Cannabis Patient Protection Act," which was devised by I-502 merchants as a way of eliminating the medical competition -- and then passed by a Legislature grateful for the productive new source of campaign donations, both over and under the table -- directed the WSLCB to issue licenses in the following priority order.

Alaska: Marijuana Proponents Say Measure Would Amount To A Ban On Rural Cannabis Shops

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Backers of the 2014 initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol in Alaska are urging legislators to oppose a measure that would severely limit marijuana business locations and access to marijuana for adults in rural Alaska. The amendment was recently snuck into HB 75, an otherwise non-controversial bill intended to clarify marijuana rules following the passage of Ballot Measure 2.

HB 75 was originally intended to establish the maximum number of marijuana plants that can be cultivated per household and define key terms in the law. It was recently expanded to allow the state government to request background checks on marijuana business applicants, at which time Sen. Lyman F. Hoffman (D - Dist. S) introduced an amendment that would make it very difficult to establish marijuana businesses in any unincorporated area of the state.

"Alaskans spoke loud and clear when they adopted Ballot Measure 2, and this amendment would defy the will of the voters,” said Tim Hinterberger, an official proponent of Ballot Measure 2 who served as chair of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. “It is disappointing that some senators would use the state's need for background checks as an opportunity to ban marijuana businesses in rural Alaska. We strongly urge members of the House to oppose this offensive proposal and either amend HB 75 or oppose it and address background checks in a separate bill."

Washington: Marijuana Sharing Law Passes House

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

When Washington state's marijuana legalization law, I-502, passed, it didn't take long until folks figured out it is the most badly written "legalization" law yet passed. It's so badly written, in fact, that under this purportedly "progressive" legislation, it's a felony to pass a joint to your significant other.

Since the people of Washington apparently didn't read the damn thing before they passed I-502, seemingly not making it past "legalization" and thinking "how bad could THAT be?", it now falls upon the hapless Washington Legislature to fix the mess -- and that's pretty damn scary to anyone who knows just how clueless is that body of lawmakers when it comes to cannabis.

But they get points for trying, at least when it comes to the sharing issue. House Bill 2494, "An act relating to penalties for marijuana offenses," on Monday passed the Washington House on a 73 to 24 vote, and has been referred to committee in the Senate, reports Jake Ellison at the Seattle PI.

Washington State Has First Cannabis Recall Due To Pesticides

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

While marijuana product recalls have seemingly become commonplace in Colorado, Washington state had seemed remarkably free of such problems -- until now. Washington-based Evergreen Herbal on Friday issued the state's first voluntary cannabis product recall due to pesticide concerns.

The recall is an indirect result of two producers, New Leaf Enterprises and BMF Washington, recently being investigated by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) for using prohibited pesticides.

While the LCB did find prohibited pesticides on cannabis products from both companies and made them pay fines of $2,500 and suspend operations for 10 days, interestingly, BMF -- despite using no fewer than 12 prohibited pesticides -- was allowed to continue selling tainted flowers with a "warning label" after paying the fine. (All concentrates were destroyed upon orders of the LCB; the process of making concentrates also means higher levels of poison, as well as THC.)

Evergreen Herbal, clearly not wanting to end up like New Leaf and BMF, announced its voluntary product recall via press release on Friday, reports Graham Abbott at Ganjapreneur. The three products being recalled are the high-CBD edibles Hibiscus Quencher, Strawberry Quencher, and CBD Dark Chocolate 420 Bar; all three were, at one point, produced using Dama CBD oil, according to Evergreen.

Washington: Lawmaker Says Black Market Weed Still Cheaper Than The Legal Stuff

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

State Rep. Christopher Hurst, who just last week wouldn't allow a committee vote on a marijuana home grow bill, said on Thursday that it's still cheaper to buy black market cannabis in his state than it is to go in a store and buy the legal stuff.

House Bill 2347, which Hurst (D-Enumclaw) is sponsoring, would reduce the tax on legal recreational marijuana from 37 to 25 percent, reports LaVendrick Smith at the WNPA Olympia News Bureau. The idea is to make legal marijuana prices more competitive with those on the black market, according to Hurst.

A reduced tax would be one of the most important ways of eliminating black market sales of marijuana, according to Hurst, who said the black market still makes up 65 to 75 percent of cannabis sales in Washington state.

"We can't get there if we price ourselves so much higher than the illicit market," Hurst said. "The criminals love the tax rate being high, because they don't pay it, and it makes it so the legal people can't compete with them."

Then again, nobody knows for sure what Rep. Hurst even means when he says "black market," since last year he said he viewed all medical marijuana dispensaries as black market dealers -- and they have openly operated in the state for more than a decade, with many paying taxes. With the shutdown of medical dispensaries looming, medicinal cannabis patients will be forced to go through the recreational system to buy marijuana beginning July 1.

Washington: Blue Dream Most Popular Strain In State According To Analysis

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Flower is booming, concentrate sales are growing at an even more rapid pace and Blue Dream is the No. 1 flower strain in Washington state. This represents a small look at the sweeping range of insights released on Thursday by BDS Analytics, the cannabis industry’s most reliable source of data analytics.

Among other things, today’s in-depth analysis of the Washington State cannabis market between Q3 2014 and Q4 2015 finds:

• Sales in Q4 2015 were up a whopping 430 percent compared to the same quarter in 2014

• Ten of Washington’s 31 counties account for 81 percent of cannabis sales

• Concentrate sales vaulted from less than $2 million in Q3 2014 to $15 million in Q3 2015

• Among all edible categories, candy is the most popular, capturing 30 percent of sales

“We have now normalized and categorized millions of transactions in Washington State in our GreenEdge™ database and that forms the basis of this report,” said Roy Bingham, BDS Analytics founder and CEO. "We are very impressed by the rapid pace of sales growth and fascinated with a wide range of valuable data points.

“The flower strain Cherry OG, for example, barely registered in popularity until July of 2015, when it began a steady climb to second place, just behind Blue Dream, which has held a commanding lead for much of the past 18 months," Bingham said. "For analytics nerds like us, cannabis data is absolutely engrossing, especially because it provide actionable insights for our clients.”

Washington: Adult Home Grow Bill Would Allow Up To 6 Plants

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A new bill has been filed in the Washington Legislature would allow adults in the state to lawfully grow up to six marijuana plants. Washington is currently the only state with legal marijuana which doesn't allow any home cultivation; under the state's I-502 legalization law, all recreational cannabis must be grown by state-licensed commercial producers.

It's a chance for Washington to finally join the states where cannabis has been more fully legalized, because as any thinking person realizes, if you can't grow your own, it's not really legal yet.

HB 2629, filed by Rep. Brian Blake, a Democrat representing Washington's 19th Legislative District, would make the following amendments to current state marijuana laws:

• Authorizes individuals to lawfully engage in non-commercial (i.e., without an exchange of money) transfers of small amounts of cannabis and cannabis seeds;

• Authorizes adults to cultivate up to six marijuana plants at home and to possess up to 24 ounces of marijuana harvested from the home-grown plants;

• Makes the possession of up to the three times the current legal limit for cannabis products (i.e., useable cannabis, infused products, and concentrates) a civil infraction rather than a felony offense;

• Makes the possession of more than three times the legal limit for marijuana products, but not more than 12 times the limit, a misdemeanor offense;

• Makes the possession of more than 12 times the legal limit for cannabis products a felony offense;

Washington: Seattle City Attorney Promises Crackdown On Black Market Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Marijuana legalization gets rid of the black market, and makes it obsolete, right? Wrong, if your legalization law is written as badly as Washington state's.

I-502, the clunky cannabis legalization measure, was made even worse by SB 5052; last year, that execrable piece of legislation assisted the original measure in completing a coup de grace on medical marijuana dispensaries and farmers markets in the state.

The onerous taxation scheme and miles of red tape forced upon marijuana retailers by state rules -- along with a healthy dose of old fashioned greed -- mean that, ironically enough, cannabis costs more in legal marijuana stores than on the black market, thus ensuring that the illegal market continues to flourish, even as the state desperately tries to prop up its anointed retailers by arresting their competition.

That's right: in the eyes of recreational marijuana retailers, not just black market dealers, but medical marijuana dispensaries and farmers markets represent unwelcome competition. You can really see their point when you realize that I-502 store prices average roughly twice the going rate in dispensaries and three times that in farmers markets.

Most patients are on limited incomes as they struggle with chronic illness, and the I-502 store prices, along with the 37 percent tax, makes medicine just about unaffordable.

Washington: Cannabis Board Adopts New Rules; Bans Infused Products Requiring Cooking

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Following six public hearings held throughout the state, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board on Wednesday voted to revise the draft rules to accommodate public input it received on its original draft rules.

The draft rules are necessary to implement SB 5052, 2015 legislation which "aligns" (actually, mostly subsumes) the medical marijuana market with the existing recreational market.

Under the revised rules timeline, a public hearing would be held Feb. 10, with the Board being asked to adopt the rules on Feb. 24. If adopted, the rules become effective March 24.

“We spent many hours listening to and reviewing public comment,” claimed Board Chair Jane Rushford. “Since the beginning, this has been an open and transparent process.

"Today’s revised rules reflect the Board’s continued commitment to transparency and the willingness to listen and make adjustments that may improve the rules,” Rushford claimed.

A year ago, the Board paid $192,000 to make public records gadfly Arthur West of Olympia go away, reported Gene Johnson of the Associated Press. West, known for filing records requests and complaints of open meetings law violations at various public agencies, accused the board of breaking the state's open meetings law as it began working on rules for the new legal marijuana industry.

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