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  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 8, 2014

    Washington’s first state-licensed retail cannabis operators opened for business this morning.

    The state’s Liquor Control Board issued 24 marijuana retailer licenses late last week. (Under state regulations, the Board may issue up to 334 licenses to retail facilities.) Of those, six opened for business today – the first day legal sales were permissible – according to the Associated Press.

    Retail sale prices for a gram of cannabis ranged from $10 to $20 per gram on opening day, according to news reports. Prices are expected to fall once additional retailers open and once existing retailers obtain additional supplies of the product.

    Similar state-licensed stores have been operating in Colorado since January 1.

    Voters in both states in 2012 approved ballot measures regulating the commercial production, retail sale, and adult use of cannabis.

    Voters in Alaska and Oregon will vote on similar measures this November.

    Said NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri: “Every day in America, hundreds of thousands of people engage in transactions involving the recreational use of marijuana, but only in two states – Colorado and Washington – do these transactions take place in a safe, above-ground, state-licensed facility where consumers must show proof of age, the product sold is of known quality, and the sales are taxed in a manner to help fund necessary state and local services.”

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 2, 2014

    Washington’s first wave of state-licensed cannabis retail stores are anticipated to open for business next week. Initiative 502, approved by a majority of voters in November 2012, authorizes the establishment of state-licensed cannabis producers and retail sellers.

    The state’s Liquor Control Board is expected to begin issuing licenses on Monday, July 7. An estimated 20 retail stores are anticipated to open their doors later in the week. Similar state-sanction stores have been operating in Colorado since January 1.

    With only a small number of stores likely to be operational at first, regulators anticipate that consumers’ demand for legal cannabis may initially outpace supply. In Colorado, retailers struggled initially to meet consumer demand, resulting in temporarily inflated retail prices for cannabis. Prices have steadily fallen in Colorado as additional retailers have opened for business.

    Since the passage of Initiative 502, police filings for low-level marijuana offenses have fallen from over 5,000 annual arrests to just over one hundred.

    [UPDATE: Here is a list (c/o of the Seattle Post Intelligencer) of the first 24 state-licensed stores:

    WHIDBEY ISLAND CANNABIS COMPANY — 5826 S KRAMER RD STE, Langley
    WESTSIDE420 RECREATIONAL — 4503 OCEAN BEACH HWY, Longview
    VERDE VALLEY — 4007 MAIN ST, Union Gap
    TOP SHELF CANNABIS – 3857 HANNEGAN RD, Bellingham
    THE HAPPY CROP SHOPPE — 50 ROCK ISLAND RD, East Wenatchee
    SPOKANE GREEN LEAF — 9107 N COUNTRY HOMES BLVD, Spokane
    SPACE – 3111 S PINE ST, Tacoma
    SATORI/INSTANT KARMA — 9301 N DIVISION ST, Spokane
    NEW VANSTERDAM — 6515 E. MILL PLAIN BLVD, Vancouver
    MARGIE’S POT SHOP — 405 E STUEBEN, Bingen
    MAIN STREET MARIJUNA — 2314 MAIN ST, Vancouver
    HIGH TIME STATION — 1448 BASIN ST NW, Ephrata
    GREEN THEORY — 10697 MAIN ST STE B, Bellevue
    GREEN STAR CANNABIS — 1403 N DIVISION ST, Spokane
    FREEDOM MARKET — 820A WESTSIDE HWY, Kelso
    CREATIVE RETAIL MANAGEMENT — 7046 PACIFIC AVE,Tacoma
    CASCADE KROPZ — 19129 SMOKEY POINT BLVD, Arlington
    CANNABIS CITY — 2733 4TH AVE S, Seattle
    BUD HUT — 1123 E STATE ROUTE 532, Camano Island
    AUSTIN LOTT — 29 HORIZON FLATS RD, Winthrop
    ALTITUDE – 260 MERLOT DR, Prosser
    4US RETAIL — 23251 HWY 20, Okanogan
    420 CARPENTER — 422 CARPENTER RD, Lacey
    2020 SOLUTIONS – 2018 IRON ST, Bellingham
    ]

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director June 25, 2014

    In a memo obtained by NORML, released in late May, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) clarified their drug policy in light of the growing number of states legalizing marijuana for medical and recreational use.

    In response to inquiries regarding the department’s policy for employees in states that approved recreational or medical use of marijuana, the USDA strongly reaffirmed that their drug testing policies concerning marijuana are still very much in effect, regardless of state law changes.

    The memo states that, “use of Marijuana for ‘recreational’ purposes is not authorized under Federal law nor the Department’s Drug Free Workplace Program policies.” It then elaborates that, “accordingly, USDA testing procedures remain in full force and effect.”

    This policy is largely still being enforced due to marijuana’s current status as a Schedule I drug at the federal level. The USDA described their current ongoing policy by stating that “USDA agencies test for the following class of drugs and their metabolites: (a) Marijuana, Opiate (Codeine/Morphine, Morphine, 6-Acetylmorphine) and PCP; and (b) Cocaine, Amphetamines (AMP/MAMP, Methamphetamine, MDMA). These drugs are listed in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA)…as Schedule I and Schedule II drugs, respectively. Schedule I drugs are substances, or chemicals defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. They are considered the most dangerous of all the drug schedules and invite potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.”

    Citing the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Medical Review Officer Manual for Federal Agency Workplace Testing Programs, the USDA also made clear this policy applies equally whether marijuana is being used for recreational use or medical purposes:

    “State initiatives and laws, which make available to an individual a variety of illicit drugs by a physician’s prescription or recommendation, do not make the use of these illicit drugs permissible under the Federal Drug-Free Workplace Program. These State initiatives and laws are inconsistent with Federal law and put the safety, health, and security of Federal works and the American public at risk. The use of any substance included in Schedule I of the CSA, whether for non-medical or ostensible medical purposes, is considered a violation of Federal law and the Federal Drug-Free Workplace Program.”

    “The USDA’s stance on testing employees for marijuana use, regardless of the laws of the state in which they live, is unfortunate,” stated NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “Patients will be denied effective medicine and individuals will be denied civil liberties being given to their fellow state citizens. This situation highlights the fact that the existing, inherent conflict between state laws seeking to legalize and regulate cannabis for recreational or medical purposes and federal policy, which classifies the substance as illicit, are ultimately untenable. To resolve this conflict there must be a change in marijuana’s federal classification. Without such a change, we will consistently have a lack of clarity and ongoing conflict between public sentiment, state law, and federal policy.”

    You can read the full USDA memo here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 19, 2014

    Senate members are expected to vote imminently in regard to language that seeks to bar the US Justice Department from interfering in activities that are compliant with state medical cannabis laws.

    Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) will introduce the bipartisan amendment, which will be similar to language approved by the US House of Representatives earlier this month. As with other legislation, the amendment must be approved by majorities in both legislative chambers before it is sent to the President for approval.

    This will be the first time in recent memory that US Senators have ever decided on provisions specific to liberalizing America’s marijuana policies.

    It is time that we allowed our unique federalist system to work the way it was intended. Patients and providers should be permitted to engage in state-sanctioned, medical cannabis-related activities free from the threat of federal interference or federal prosecution.

    Please write or call your members of Senate today and tell them to stop using taxpayer dollars to target and prosecute state-authorized medical marijuana patients and providers. For your convenience, a pre-written letter will be e-mailed to your Senators when you visit here.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director

    Today, the full Philadelphia City Council voted 13 to 3 in support of a measure that would lower the penalty for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana to a civil infraction, punishable by a $25 fine.

    All 13 of the Democratic members of the City Council voted for it and all three Republicans voted against. The measure now goes to Philadelphia Mayor Nutter’s desk for signature. NORML’s local chapter, Philly NORML, has been working hard on advancing these reforms for many years and those efforts seem to be finally paying off.

    Councilman Bill Greenlee, who voted in support of decriminalization, stated, “It does not seem fair for what most people consider a minor incident to potentially risk people’s future.”

    Councilwoman Cindy Bass, who also voted “Yes” on the bill, said, “To spend the time and the amount of money that is really required to prosecute someone with small amounts of marijuana, while we have so many other bigger issues in the city, does seem a little bit not where we need to be headed.”

    Bill sponsor Councilman Jim Kenney estimates that the new pot policy could save the police department and the courts about $4 million a year.

    NORML will keep you updated if and when the mayor signs this measure.

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