Marijuana: The Path To Legalization In Washington State | KUOW News and Information

Marijuana: The Path To Legalization In Washington State

Washington became one of the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational use in 2012. But there are a lot of challenges ahead: the state must set up a licensing system for marijuana growers and sellers, the federal government may mount a challenge, the need to set a new limit on amount of marijuana in the bloodstream for safe driving. And medical marijuana is still in the picture.

Over the next several months we will be exploring the issue and tracking the impact of I-502.

Marijuana plants are shown in the flowering room at Grow Ambrosia in Seattle
KUOW Photos/Megan Farmer

A Seattle municipal court judge will decide if hundreds of marijuana convictions should be vacated after a request from Pete Holmes, the city attorney. 

If approved by the court, 542 people convicted of marijuana possession would have their records affected.

Some Think Legal Cannabis Might Be Dragging Down Craft Beer Sales

Apr 30, 2018

After years of double-digit growth, Oregon’s craft beer sales are slowing. Some think legal cannabis might be playing a role.

Deschutes Brewery CEO Michael LaLonde tells The Bend Bulletin that legalized cannabis has affected sales. “It’s so potent today. Someone might go and have a beer and do some edibles, and the combination of those two things means they don’t consume as much alcohol,” he said.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee is making headlines for a quip he made about marijuana to HBO host Bill Maher.

As more states legalize marijuana, there's growing interest in a cannabis extract — cannabidiol, also known as CBD.

It's marketed as a compound that can help relieve anxiety — and, perhaps, help ease aches and pains, too.

Part of the appeal, at least for people who don't want to get high, is that CBD doesn't have the same mind-altering effects as marijuana, since it does not contain THC, the psychoactive component of the plant.

FLICKR PHOTO/GOODIEZ (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Two reports released this month showed a decline in opioid prescriptions in states that have legalized medical marijuana.

One report looked at Medicaid enrollees, the other people on Medicare.

Both reports find medical pot can encourage lower prescription opioid use and serve as a harm abatement tool in the opioid crisis.

Dr. Andrew Saxon is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington and director of the Addiction Psychiatry Residency Program at the University.

He tells KUOW's Marcie Sillman the reports support alternatives to opioid prescriptions but the addiction crisis is far from solved.

The inspiration arrived in a haze at a Paul McCartney concert a few years ago in San Francisco.

"People in front of me started lighting up and then other people started lighting up," says Matthew Springer, a biologist and professor in the division of cardiology at the University of California, San Francisco. "And for a few naive split seconds I was thinking to myself, 'Hey, they can't smoke in AT&T Park! I'm sure that's not allowed.' And then I realized that it was all marijuana."

Marijuana plants are shown in the flowering room at Grow Ambrosia in Seattle
KUOW Photos / Megan Farmer

Guy Nelson talks to KUOW reporter David Hyde about who still pays the price for marijuana crimes in Washington state after legalization.  

Seattle musician Yirim Seck was arrested for selling pot in the decade before it was legalized
KUOW Photos / Megan Farmer

KUOW listener Christine Bryant Cohen wants to know who's doing time for what she does for a living:  selling pot. 

Flickr Photo/Brian Stalter (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Kim Malcolm talks with Alison Holcomb about Seattle's move to vacate convictions for misdemeanor marijuana possession. Holcomb is director of strategy for the ACLU of Washington and the architect of Initiative 502, which legalized recreational marijuana in Washington.

Legal marijuana sales exceeded $1.3 billion in Washington state in fiscal year 2017.
KUOW Photo/Bond Huberman

People with pot possession records in Seattle may be about to catch a break. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and City Attorney Pete Holmes announced today a plan to ask the city's municipal court to drop charges and vacate convictions for misdemeanor marijuana possession.

Raft Hollingsworth III laughs with his sister Joy Hollingsworth on Thursday, January 18, 2018, at The Hollingsworth Cannabis Company in Mason County.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Last year sales of legal marijuana reached $1.2 billion. Despite the growth, people of color are left out. Less than 10 percent of current licensed retailers and producers are minorities.  One reason: stigma.

When Joy Hollingsworth and her brother Raft decided to grow pot as a family business, they told only a few about it. Joy says growing up, pot was taboo.


Joy Hollingsworth, left, and Raft Hollingsworth III stand in their cloning greenhouse on Thursday, January 18, 2018, at The Hollingsworth Cannabis Company in Mason County.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

When Washington voters approved legalizing recreational marijuana in 2012, entrepreneurs jumped at the new business opportunity.

Marijuana sales continue to grow, with the industry doing  more than a billion dollars in sales last year. But this new industry is overwhelmingly white —  and there are many obstacles for people of color.

One African American family is staking their future on pot despite the barriers.

Updated at 7 p.m. ET

Prosecutors in San Francisco will throw out thousands of marijuana-related convictions of residents dating back to 1975.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón said Wednesday that his office will dismiss and seal 3,038 misdemeanor convictions dating back before the state's legalization of marijuana went into effect, with no action necessary from those who were convicted.

Prosecutors will also review up to 4,940 felony convictions and consider reducing them to misdemeanors.

Two-year old Maverick Hawkins sits on a red plastic car in his grandmother's living room in the picturesque town of Nevada City, Calif., in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. His playpal Delilah Smith, a fellow 2-year-old, snacks on hummus and cashews and delights over the sounds of her Princess Peppa stuffie.

It's playtime for the kids of the provocatively named Facebook group "Pot Smoking Moms Who Cuss Sometimes."

A regulatory snafu in Washington state has industrial hemp farmers in limbo over planting a crop in 2018. Some of them are looking to shift acreage to Oregon.

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board recommends legislation to allow people to grow four cannabis plants at home.
Flickr Photo/Cannabis Culture (CC BY-NC-ND)

This could be the year Washington state legalizes growing pot in your own home. Washington is the only state with a legal, recreational marijuana market that doesn't allow recreational home grows.

This week's news isn't going to pump itself

Jan 5, 2018
KUOW PHOTO/KARA MCDERMOTT

The Trump Administration says it will stop telling prosecutors to look the other way when states legalize marijuana and wants to open federal waters off the coast to oil drilling.

Seattle taxpayers will pay to settle a sex abuse lawsuit against former mayor Ed Murray. And Oregonians will finally get to pump their own gas, but please cool it with the jokes.

Pot products are seen inside The Green Door marijuana shop on Rainier Avenue South in Seattle on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018.
KUOW photo/Anna Boiko-Weyrauch

On a busy stretch of Rainier Avenue South in Seattle, next to a taco truck, a dry cleaners and a gas station is The Green Door. A large road-side sign touts it as “Seattle’s favorite cannabis shop.”

Inside on Thursday, it was tense. “Very nerve-wracking,” said manager Mark Larsson. 


Legal marijuana sales exceeded $1.3 billion in Washington state in fiscal year 2017.
KUOW Photo/Bond Huberman

Washington state officials are calling the Trump administration's decision to scrap marijuana guidelines "backwards" and "disappointing."

Updated at 4:45 p.m. ET

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is scrapping Obama-era guidelines that essentially removed marijuana from the list of federal drug enforcement priorities as more states legalized it.

In guidance issued Thursday, Sessions rescinded those policies and instead will permit individual U.S. attorneys to decide how aggressively to go after marijuana in their jurisdictions.

Sessions, a former Alabama senator, has long viewed pot as a public menace and a source of street crime.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're learning more about a massive illegal marijuana growing operation busted by police in Western Washington this week. One unusual aspect of this case is that the 44 people arrested at a network of grow houses were all Chinese.

Marijuana may be legal in Washington and Oregon, but police continue to bust illegal marijuana operations that are not licensed by the state.

The latest numbers from the Washington State Patrol show that 89 illegal marijuana growing operations were shut down in Washington over the past year. Some were indoor grows, most were outdoor.

A saga involving a Pacific Northwest hemp fashion company in search of a bank has been resolved, but points to the murky legal landscape facing some cannabis-related businesses.

After two rescinded business accounts and a bank's change of heart, hemp clothing and accessories retailer Rawganique is back where it started.

This story has been updated.

Since recreational marijuana became legal in Washington state and Oregon, the booming industry has been having having trouble accessing the banking system. And now a hemp fashion retailer in Blaine, Washington, is having the same problem.

Oregon farmers planted the state’s first legal crops of industrial hemp a couple of years ago. Now the first Washington state farmer to plant the non-drug cousin of marijuana has harvested the crop. 


Hemp entrepreneur Cory Sharp is fairly happy with Washington’s first legal crop in almost 90 years. His farmer partners harvested 105 acres earlier this month from irrigated fields near Moses Lake. 


But the celebration is tempered because the crop is unsold.


Washington’s cannabis is a bit more potent than the national average. And the state’s teens are more likely to smoke marijuana than young people nationwide.

Although we have the same problems with marijuana as we do with liquor abuse, no blockbuster conclusions came from a recent report on Washington’s marijuana universe.

Washington is the only state with legal marijuana that doesn’t allow home grows. There have been unsuccessful efforts to change that in recent years. Now the state’s Liquor and Cannabis Board is taking public comment on the issue through October 11.

Washington’s state Department of Health will remove a billboard deemed offensive after public backlash. The billboard in question was an initiative from the Department’s Marijuana Prevention & Education Program.

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