October 20, 2014 at 11:45 AM

In Colorado, health officials want most pot edibles off shelves

By Kristen Wyatt / AP with material from The Seattle Times 

Colorado health officials want to ban many edible forms of marijuana, including brownies, cookies and most candies.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has recommended that retail marijuana edibles be limited to lozenges and tinctures.

The recommendation has been obtained by The Associated Press in advance of a third and possibly final workgroup meeting Monday to draw up rules for identifiable markers or colors for edible marijuana products so they won't be confused with regular foods.

The health department's recommendation would effectively take most forms of edible marijuana off store shelves. The final decision will be made by the Department of Revenue, which oversees retail marijuana sales.

Lawmakers have ordered regulators to require pot-infused food and drink to have a distinct look when they are out of the packaging.

The Washington Liquor Control Board said last month that it learned from Colorado's early missteps with edibles in modeling its rules. Officials and industry advocates in both states said they were concerned about inexperienced pot users having too much, too fast.

In Colorado, researchers estimated that tourists account for about 44 percent of recreational marijuana sales in metro areas, and about 90 percent in heavily visited mountain communities.

Earlier this year, novice pot users having bad, or even tragic, experiences with Colorado edibles made headlines nationwide.

In June, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote about her experience with edibles, and the story went viral. Three months earlier, a 19-year-old Wyoming student had jumped from a balcony and died after eating more than six times the recommended serving of marijuana cookies.

October 17, 2014 at 2:55 PM

Judge agrees: Cities and counties can ban pot businesses

A Chelan County judge ruled cities and counties can ban pot businesses, according to a news release from the State Attorney General's office, which intervened in the case. The ruling agrees with that of a Pierce County judge about a similar case regarding the city of Fife.

In Fife, a prospective marijuana retailer was suing the city and hoped the judge would compel Fife to issue a business license. The retailer lost and has appealed the case to the state Supreme Court. The Supreme Court could take up the case as early next year.

Both judges hewed closely to the state Attorney General's opinion that localities could ban marijuana businesses. Neither judge directly addressed whether federal law trumps that of the state in regulating marijuana.

Proponents of Initiative 502 argue that allowing local governments to ban marijuana businesses guts the initiative and will allow the black market to thrive in areas of the state where pot businesses are not allowed to operate. The Legislature could take up the issue.

"Now it is up to the Legislature to decide whether to require local governments to allow for the sale of marijuana,” said Ferguson in a news release.

October 16, 2014 at 11:20 AM

State Liquor Control Board posts pot sales, fines online for banks

By Gene Johnson

SEATTLE (AP) — Banking remains a thorny issue for legal marijuana businesses, but regulators in Washington state are trying to make it easier for financial institutions to track their pot-related customers.

In the last few days, the state's Liquor Control Board has started posting the sales activity of licensed marijuana growers, sellers and processers online — along with any warnings or fines issued to businesses caught out of compliance. The data show that two of state's top-selling pot shops are in the southwest Washington city of Vancouver, just across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon.

The idea behind posting the information online is to make it easy for banks or credit unions to discover red flags that might indicate illegal activity, officials said. Early this year, the U.S. Justice and Treasury departments gave banks permission to do business with legal marijuana entities with conditions, including trying to make sure the customers are complying with regulations.

"The more information that's out there, it helps them know their customers and gives them an opportunity to identify behavior that's not what they thought it would be," Scott Jarvis, director of the state Department of Financial Institutions. "If somebody reports that they're selling $10,000 a month, and all of a sudden the bank sees them depositing $40,000 a month, there's room for inquiry there."

Colorado, the only other state with legal marijuana sales, does not make such data available online.

Denny Eliason, a lobbyist for the state banking industry, said it can only help to have the information easily accessible because "the federal guidance requires financial institutions to know their customers at an unprecedented level." While some credit unions in the state are already opening accounts for pot businesses, he said it's too soon to say whether the online access will encourage more to take marijuana money.

"The sense I get from the financial industry is still one of caution," he said. "There's so much risk."

Under the guidance, banks must review state license applications for marijuana customers, request information about the business, develop an understanding of the types of products to be sold and monitor publicly available sources for any negative information about the business.

The banks need to file "suspicious activity reports" on their pot customers — designated either "marijuana limited," for those believed to be complying with the federal government's law-enforcement priorities, such as keeping pot away from children; "marijuana priority," for those the banks have questions about; or "marijuana termination," for those believed to be engaging in criminal activity.

The sales data show that since sales began in July, one of the state's top-selling pot shops has been New Vansterdam in Vancouver, which has reported nearly $1.7 million in sales. Another Vancouver shop, Main Street Marijuana, has sold about $1.1 million worth. By contrast, Seattle's first licensed pot store, Cannabis City, which like many of the stores has been beset by supply problems, reported $1.3 million in sales.

Sales are allowed to out-of-state residents. But among the federal government's concerns in allowing states to move forward with legalizing marijuana is to prevent diversion to other states. Oregon is set to vote this fall on whether to legalize marijuana.

The enforcement data posted online so far concerns activity from last month only, but it reveals that the state has already issued fines to businesses. One licensed marijuana grower, Botany Unlimited Design and Supply in Pasco, was fined twice: $2,500 on Sept. 16 for having unauthorized product or unapproved storage, and $1,000 on Sept. 25 for failing to maintain a required security alarm or surveillance system.

Liquor board spokesman Brian Smith said Botany Unlimited is scheduled for an informal hearing about the fines next month. The company declined to comment when contacted by The Associated Press.

Another licensed grower, Green Chiefs of Granite Falls, was fined $5,000 for failing to use or maintain systems designed to track its marijuana. Green Chiefs hasn't informed the board about whether it wants to seek a hearing over the matter, Smith said. The company did not return phone messages from The Associated Press.

Two other companies were issued fines that were not reflected in the September data, Smith said. After hearings, Green Apple, a licensed grower in Silverdale, was fined $1,600, and BMF Washington, a grower in Raymond, was fined $3,000. The reasons for those fines were not immediately clear.

About three dozen other businesses have been issued warnings, mostly for failing to file sales reports with the board. Many didn't realize that they were required to file the reports even if they did not sell any marijuana, Smith said.

"Really what we've found is the industry has been very careful," he said. "They want to do everything they can not to jeopardize their license."

October 14, 2014 at 1:08 PM

Entrepreneur moved across country to Seattle to make pot-infused syrups

Meet Jamie Hoffman, a Chicago entrepreneur who moved across the country and cashed in savings accounts to found Craft Elixirs, a company that makes pot-infused syrups that you could put on toast or in a salad.

October 9, 2014 at 4:19 PM

Zoots edibles on shelves Friday


Seattle's first edibles processor, Db3, will launch its Zoots products Friday. "It’s a huge milestone," said Patrick Devlin, who owns the company with his brothers. Two Seattle stores, Cannabis City and Uncle Ike's Pot Shop, will carry the Zoots brand. Herbal Nation in Bothell and Bellevue's Green Theory also will have the product tomorrow.

Devlin said three products will be offered in stores tomorrow: hard candies called ZootRocks, two varieties of drink additives designed for relaxation or energy called ZootDrops, and single-serving shots called ZootBlast.

Patrick Devlin and his brothers, Michael and Dan, started Db3 after furtive discussions around their family’s Thanksgiving table in 2012. The company was the state’s first licensed processor to have products approved.  The company produces its products in a 25,000-square-foot space in Sodo.

October 8, 2014 at 6:07 AM

Pot-shop pop: Marijuana soda explodes at Bellingham store

AP/BELLINGHAM — Bottles of marijuana-infused soda delivered to a Bellingham pot shop started exploding on the store shelf.

The manager of Top Shelf Cannabis, Zach Henifin, told KOMO  “It sounded like a shotgun going off.”

No one was injured at the store.

Henifin wore a face guard and protective clothing to move more than 300 bottles to a steel trash bin and most had exploded by Tuesday.

The legal sparkling pomegranate soda was made by Mirth Provisions of Longview and delivered on Sept. 28. Employees found a sticky mess the next day and heard and saw bottles randomly explode.

Mirth Provisions founder Adam Stites says there was too much yeast in the soda and fermentation caused excess carbon dioxide to build up.

October 6, 2014 at 7:45 AM

Protest at Uncle Ike's Pot Shop; Will Oregon legalize?

It was a busy weekend on the pot scene and for our coverage in The Seattle Times.

In Seattle's Central District, protesters voiced their objections to Uncle Ike's Pot Shop, which opened last week. About 150 churchgoers shouted "shut it down" outside the store, which was the second state-licensed retail pot store in Seattle.

Alexa Vaughn reported on the community's objections.

Meanwhile, our Oregon correspondent, Hal Bernton, took a look at the effort to legalize marijuana in the state. The initiative calls for lower taxes on pot than in Washington and would allow home grow. Oregonians would also be able to possess eight ounces of pot at home.

October 3, 2014 at 2:24 PM

The immigrant behind Ocean Greens, Seattle's third pot shop

An immigrant from Albania, Oltion Hyseni came to the United States fourteen years ago. Now, he's the third person in Seattle to open a state-licensed retail marijuana shop.

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