seattle times

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Washington: Seattle Mayor's Medical Marijuana Dispensary Plan Gets Resistance

EdMurraySeattleMayor[TheSeattleTimes]

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray's proposal for licensing medical marijuana dispensaries has run into opposition from some shop owners in the city who'd be zoned out of existence under the plan.

The mayor's proposal wouldn't allow Alex Cooley, a pioneer in medical marijuana in the city, to continue farming at his Sodo location, because it is too close to a child-care center, reports Bob Young at The Seattle Times.

"Why did I work voluntarily with the city to go through the front door, when all of my permits provide no value to me right now?" Cooley said at a Seattle City Hall meeting last week.

Cooley and other unhappy businesspeople at the meeting asked for changes in the mayor's plan to bring the city's longstanding, law-abiding medical marijuana dispensaries into compliance with the state's recreational marijuana system created by I-502.

The mayor's plan would reduce buffer zones between marijuana businesses and child-care centers and libraries from 1,000 feet to 500 feet; it would keep the 1,000-foot buffer in place for schools and playgrounds. It would also require pot stores to be at least 500 feet apart.

The plan would add 1,650 acres of available land in the city where legal marijuana stores could potentially locate. Some, including Cooley, believe the buffers should be further relaxed.

Washington: Seattle IRS Agent Charged With Bribing Marijuana Store Owner

PaulHurley[LinkedIn]

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A Seattle-based Internal Revenue Service agent was charged on Monday with soliciting a bribe and accepting payment from a local recreational-marijuana business owner.

Paul Hurley, 42, allegedly asked for $20,000 cash from the I-502 store owner in exchange for giving lenience in a tax audit, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office, reports Jessica Lee at The Seattle Times. Hurley was charged in U.S. District Court.

The owner of the marijuana store reportedly did not ask for leniency.

Hurley presented the business owner with a tax bill for 2013 and 2014 totaling more than $290,000, but claimed he had saved the businessman more than $1 million, according to prosecutors. The agent then asked for $20,000 in exchange for the "help," according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Photo of Paul Hurley: LinkedIn

Business deductions aren't allowed on federal tax returns for marijuana business, and the gross revenue is taxable because cannabis is a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law.

The businessman contacted law enforcement, who witnessed two money exchanges between the man and the IRS agent. Hurley, who has been with the IRS since 2009, according to the news release, was arrested after the second money exchange on Monday.

Washington: Top Marijuana Advisor Steps Down

RandySimmons[JohnLok-TheSeattleTimes]

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The bureaucrat who helped implement Washington state's recreational marijuana law -- and dismantle the state's medical marijuana program -- is stepping down.

Randy Simmons, deputy director of the Washington State Liquor Control Board, said this year's "difficult" legislative session played a factor in his decision, reports Bob Young at The Seattle Times.

Battles erupted as monied I-502 business investors lobbied the Washington Legislature to "fold" the state's medical marijuana industry into the recreational side; that happened, effectively channeling all patients through I-502 stores and shutting down access through medical dispensaries statewide. It was an unappetizing spectacle, with 502 merchants picking over the remains of the medical marijuana community, looking for more profits.

"It was a hard legislative session," Young complained, evidently feeling patients should have uncomplainingly been led down the primrose path of eliminating medical dispensaries. "I felt tired of all the battles going on."

Simmons, 63, is leaving his job at the Liquor and Cannabis Control Board at the end of August to take a senior administrator's job at the Washington Department of Revenue. He said he's looking forward to a less stressful job.

Washington: Seattle Mayor Plans Crackdown On Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

EdMurraySeattleMayor[TheSeattleTimes]

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Apparently not content to wait for the scheduled extinction date of medical marijuana dispensaries in Washington -- set for July 1, 2016 -- Seattle Mayor Ed Murray on Tuesday proposed legislation that could shut down dozens of dispensaries in the city.

Mayor Murray's plan would create a new business license specifically for medical marijuana dispensaries and create enforcement priorities for unlicensed shops, reports Evan Bush at The Seattle Times.

The plan follows the Washington Legislature's attempts to "fold" medical marijuana into the state's recreational cannabis system established under I-502 and SB 5052. The latter law, approved last month, calls for the Washington State Liquor Control Board (which will be renamed the Liquor and Cannabis Board) to "assess the merit" of medical marijuana dispensaries are license those which qualify by July 2016.

The LCB still hasn't come up with the rules for grading medical marijuana dispensaries, and many observers believe the ultimate goal isn't to license the businesses anyway, but rather to shut almost all of them down. It's not yet clear how many additional licenses Seattle might get, or which businesses could get those licenses.

Washington: Seattle City Attorney Wants To Shut Down Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

PeteHolmesSeattleCityAttorney

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes was a big supporter of Washington state's marijuana legalization measure, Initiative 502, all along. Now it seems Holmes is so gung-ho on 502, he wants to extinguish current medical marijuana dispensaries, which existed for years before recreational legalization was approved in 2012, and force medicinal cannabis patients through the state's expensive recreational pot stores.

Holmes in a policy memo on Monday urged the Washington Legislature to fold medical marijuana into the state's recreational system, reports Evan Bush at The Seattle Times. He also pushed Seattle city officials to crack down on medical marijuana dispensaries which he claims aren't following state law or city regulations.

"If you're a commercial (medical marijuana) operation lacking a 502 license, it's a felony operation. Period," Holmes said.

Holmes claimed some of the business aren't operating with proper permits, and that others have neglected to pay local business and occupation taxes. He said some of them opened after the Seattle City Council passed an intended moratorium on new dispensaries in the city.

The city attorney said he published the wide-ranging memo to clarify any confusion about medical marijuana laws. Holmes said he hopes his memo "reframes" the debate about medical marijuana.

Washington: Marijuana Potency Testing Accuracy Challenged

CannabisLabTesting

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The rules of Washington state's recreational marijuana legalization law, I-502, require a sample tested from every lot of marijuana. But how useful is that testing?

The program is having some success detecting substances like yeast, mold and bacteria, reports Evan Bush at The Seattle Times. About one out of every 10 batches of marijuana fails and can't be sold in recreational pot shops, according to Washington State Liquor Control Board data.

Potency testing, meanwhile -- which measures levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive component, shows Washington weed is widely variable. Recreational marijuana averages about 16 percent THC in the state, but about 2.5 percent of samples test above 28 percent.

Laboratory directors from the state's 12 licensed pot-testing facilities said they are forming working groups to lobby the Liquor Control Board for more oversight of lab methods.

"Part of it is to invite more regulation," said Brad Douglass, scientific director at the Werc Shop, one of the 12 labs licensd by the state.

Randy Simmons, with the Liquor Control Board, claimed that the system is off to a good start. "The majority of what's out there on packages is correct," he said.

"The lab side is emerging," Simmons said. "As it matures, I think all those things that have been missed ... or things we find out we should be looking for, will all be changed."

Washington: Schools Turn Down Marijuana Farmer's $14,000 Donation

RandyWilliams(WAMarijuanaFarmer)

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

“I never thought it’d be a problem to give money away,” said marijuana farmer Randy Williams, the owner of Fireweed Farm, just north of Prosser, Washington. School officials on Monday flatly turned down a $14,000 donation from Williams, claiming they were "taking a stand" against youth marijuana use.

"We're not taking it. End of story," snapped Ray Tolcacher, Prosser School District superintendent.

"That's a mistake on their end because they're not helping anything," Williams said after visiting the school district office last week to try to make the donation. Tolcacher, who was out at the time, called the would-be donor on the telephone on Monday to turn down the money.

Williams said his next choice for the donation is the Boys & Girls Club of Benton and Franklin Counties; that youth nonprofit will "evaluate internally," according to executive director Brian Ace. If they turn him down, he might offer the money to the VFW, Williams said, reports Ross Courtney of the Yakima Herald-Republic.

Williams, one of the few legally licensed marijuana farmers in Yakima Valley, promised at a first-ever marijuana auction November 15 at his farm to donate the proceeds of one "low-grade" lot to local schools. The weed brought in about $13,500; Williams kicked in the difference to make it an even $14K.

Washington: Seattle Church Members Protest Marijuana Store Next Door

CanChristiansSmokeWeed?

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

At least 150 members of the Mount Calvary Christian Center -- who had initially welcomed the presence of a new business next door -- on Sunday held a protest shouting "shut it down" in front of a new retail marijuana store in Seattle.

The primarily black church had been happy to see once-rampant crime dwindle while new businesses open, said former associate pastor Wayne Perryman, but members realized just two weeks ago that the store involved was Uncle Ike's Pot Shop, reports Alexa Vaughn at The Seattle Times.

The store opened last Tuesday just a few feet from the south wall of the church, and conducts business during the church's services.

"We're talking to youth about how it's not OK to smoke pot, and outside, we've got this shop making a statement that opposes what we're teaching," said Perryman, who seems to have a little to learn regarding diversity and free speech.

While Washington state's marijuana laws prohibit pot shops from opening with 1,000 feet of elementary or secondary schools, playgrounds, recreation centers, child-care centers, public parks, transit centers, libraries or arcades that allow minors, it does not prevent them from opening next to churches.

Washington: Blacks Disproportionately Ticketed For Public Marijuana Use In Seattle

EndRacistMarijuanaArrests

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

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.

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