Monday, February 16, 2015

Senate Passes Bill to Oberhaul Medical Marijuana Industry

A measure seeking to reconcile Washington state's medical marijuana industry with its heavily taxed recreational sector passed the Washington state Senate on Friday.

Senate Bill 5052 passed on a bipartisan 36-11 vote and now heads to the House for consideration. It is one of several measures brought forth by lawmakers this year after efforts to address the dual markets died in the House last session.

The passage of Initiative 502 in 2012 allowed the sale of marijuana to adults for recreational use at licensed stores, which started opening last summer. Recreational businesses have complained that they're being squeezed by medical dispensaries that have proliferated in many parts of the state, providing lesser- or untaxed alternatives to licensed recreational stores.

Among its many provisions, the bill passed Friday would create a database of patients, who would be allowed to possess three times as much marijuana as is allowed under the recreational law: 3 ounces dry, 48 ounces of marijuana-infused solids, 216 ounces liquid, and 21 grams of concentrates. They could also grow up to six plants at home, unless authorized to receive more by a health professional. It would also exempt patients from paying sales tax on medical products.

The measure would crack down on collective gardens, eliminating the current collective garden structure starting July 1, 2016, but allowing four-patient "cooperatives." The cooperatives would be limited to a maximum of 60 plants, and the location of the collective would have to be registered with the state, and couldn't be within 15 miles of a licensed pot retailer.

But it would also provide an avenue for existing collective gardens to stay in business, by requiring the state Liquor Control Board - which would be renamed the Liquor and Cannabis Board under the bill - to adopt a merit-based system for granting marijuana licenses. Among the factors that could be considered are whether the applicant previously operated a collective garden, had a business license or paid business taxes.

The board would also raise its previously stated limit on marijuana retailers - 334 statewide - to accommodate the medical industry.

Several amendments failed, including one by Democratic Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles of Seattle that would have allowed all adults 21 or older to grow up to six marijuana plants at home. Another amendment by Kohl-Welles - who has a separate bill addressing the two marijuana markets - that would have removed the registry aspect of the bill also failed. She called the registry an infringement of patients' privacy.

"What I am most concerned about is that patients have an adequate, a safe, a secure supply of the medicine that works for them without government intrusion and without a new bureaucracy being developed," she said.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a DUI, immediately contact a Seattle DUI attorney. A DUI lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle DUI lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce those penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their DUI charge. So it should go without saying that someone cited for DUI should hire a qualified Seattle DUI lawyer as soon as possible. Driving Under the Influence charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with DUI in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle DUI lawyer. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Senate Passes Bill Allowing Industrial Hemp

Industrial hemp would be allowed to be grown in Washington state under a measure passed by the Senate.

Senate Bill 5012 received unanimous support Wednesday in the Senate and now heads to the House for consideration.

The measure authorizes the growing of industrial hemp as an agricultural activity in the state. It also directs Washington State University to study industrial hemp production in the state, with a report due to the Legislature by Jan. 14, 2016.

Hemp, like marijuana, comes from the cannabis plant but has much less THC, the active ingredient in marijuana that makes people high.

Washington voters passed Initiative 502 in November 2012 to legalize and regulate the recreational use of pot by adults over 21, and the first state-licensed pot stores opened last summer.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a DUI, immediately contact a Seattle DUI attorney. A DUI lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle DUI lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce those penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their DUI charge. So it should go without saying that someone cited for DUI should hire a qualified Seattle DUI lawyer as soon as possible. Driving Under the Influence charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with DUI in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle DUI lawyer. 



Tuesday, February 3, 2015

State Looks To Share Marijuana Taxes

Washington state legalized marijuana more than two years ago, but in much of the state, there's still no place to get the sanctioned stuff: More than 100 cities and counties have banned pot businesses, making it tough to undermine the black market.

Lawmakers think they have at least a partial solution: paying the locals to let licensed weed come to town.

Under bills introduced in both houses in Olympia, the state would share a chunk of its marijuana tax revenue with cities and counties - but only if they allow approved marijuana businesses in their jurisdictions. It's an approach that has worked to some degree in Colorado, said Kevin Bommer, deputy director of the Colorado Municipal League.

Washington's legal pot law, Initiative 502, passed with 56 percent of the vote in 2012. But in many parts of the state - especially in central and eastern Washington - voters opposed it. Officials in many cities have imposed bans on the pot businesses, seeing little reason to let them operate, and courts have upheld their authority to do so.

In Poulsbo, a city west of Seattle, a slim majority of voters approved the legal pot law, but the city adopted an outright ban on marijuana businesses. Councilman Ed Sterns said the ban was motivated entirely by the lack of revenue sharing. Sterns serves on the board of the Association of Washington Cities - an organization that was formed to press the state to share liquor revenue after alcohol prohibition ended in 1933.

Local governments continue to get a cut of liquor revenue, and if the state does the same with marijuana, Sterns said he'd urge Poulsbo to reconsider its ban.

Since legal marijuana stores opened in Washington last summer, the state has collected $20 million in pot taxes. In Colorado, sales and excises taxes on pot hit $50 million in the first year of legal sales, with about $6 million sent back to local governments.

But even in Colorado, three-quarters of the state's 271 cities ban marijuana businesses.

Under I-502, the tax money was dedicated largely to health care: After the state paid off a few items, including the cost of administering the new law, half of the remaining tax collections were directed to a program that provided health insurance for low-income workers.

Under the national health insurance overhaul known as the Affordable Care Act, that program vanished. Some lawmakers, led by La Center Republican Sen. Ann Rivers, want to split the money that would have gone to it: One-third of it would go to cities and counties based partly on how much pot-related revenue they generate for the state. The rest would go into the state's general fund.

Sen. Karen Keiser, a Democrat from the Seattle suburb of Kent, said at a committee hearing on the measure Monday that she was concerned about the turn away from health care, noting that local health departments are chronically underfunded.

The issue is one of many facing lawmakers on the marijuana front - the most pressing of which is reconciling Washington's unregulated, largely untaxed medical marijuana system with taxed and regulated recreational sales. Other measures under consideration include requiring a vote of the public for communities to ban pot businesses, and allowing communities greater flexibility in where the businesses can be located.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a DUI, immediately contact a Seattle DUI attorney. A DUI lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle DUI lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce those penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their DUI charge. So it should go without saying that someone cited for DUI should hire a qualified Seattle DUI lawyer as soon as possible. Driving Under the Influence charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with DUI in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle DUI lawyer. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

New Bill Would Make 4th Offense DUI a Felony

Washington state lawmakers are revisiting an idea to make a driver's fourth drunken-driving conviction within 10 years a felony.

Under current Washington law, a felony DUI charge applies only if a driver already has been convicted of DUI four times in the previous decade. That's the highest threshold among the 45 states that have laws to make repeat DUI offenders felons, said the bill's author, Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley.

Padden first proposed the idea last year but said that bill failed because of concerns over the expense of imprisoning more drunken drivers for felony convictions. He said Wednesday he believes this year's bill has a better chance because a handful of Senate Democrats have signed on as co-sponsors. The measure also has support from Padden's Republican colleagues.

He said several victims of car crashes caused by repeat DUI offenders are scheduled to speak at a public hearing Thursday. Senate Bill 5105 will be before the Senate Law and Justice Committee, of which Padden is the chairman.

Capitol lawmakers have contemplated lowering Washington's threshold for felony DUI from the fifth offense to the fourth offense since 2013, upon the recommendation of a work group created by Gov. Jay Inslee to toughen impaired-driving laws after a series of fatal wrecks.

Padden said he hopes the cost obstacle can be overcome this year to bring Washington's DUI law closer to those in neighboring states. Both Oregon and Idaho have laws to make a driver's third DUI within a decade a felony.


If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a DUI, immediately contact a Seattle DUI attorney. A DUI lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle DUI lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce those penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their DUI charge. So it should go without saying that someone cited for DUI should hire a qualified Seattle DUI lawyer as soon as possible. Driving Under the Influence charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with DUI in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle DUI lawyer. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Bill Would Toss Past Marijuana Convictions

Lawmakers on Friday considered whether adults will be able to have misdemeanor convictions for marijuana possession thrown out if they were over 21 at the time of the offense.

The House's Public Safety Committee began weighing a bill by Democratic legislators that would allow misdemeanor convictions for possessing 40 grams or less of marijuana to be set aside and dismissed. If it passes, the process to clear records would be different from the way other misdemeanors are expunged. Unlike those cases, a marijuana offender wouldn't have to wait three years after completing the sentence to get the conviction wiped off the record.

The bill would erase past criminal convictions for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Voters passed Initiative 502 in 2012, which legalized the sale and recreational use of pot in Washington state.

"The voters spoke," Thurston County public defender Alex Frix told the panel Friday. "It is patently unfair to continue to punish people with the stain of a conviction for possessing a now-legal substance, period."

The committee had no questions for Frix, who was the only speaker on the bill. An identical bill introduced in 2013 never made it to the House floor for a vote.

At the same hearing, another bill by Democratic legislators to lessen the penalty for possession of small amounts of all drugs and make possession charges misdemeanors also received some discussion, but even one of that bill's sponsors took a pessimistic view of its chances.

"We probably won't get it through this year," said Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo. "You know, we're planting the seeds."

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a DUI, immediately contact a Seattle DUI attorney. A DUI lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle DUI lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce those penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their DUI charge. So it should go without saying that someone cited for DUI should hire a qualified Seattle DUI lawyer as soon as possible. Driving Under the Influence charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with DUI in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle DUI lawyer. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Washington and Colorado Share Legal Weed Lessons

Don't worry about a federal lawsuit. But do worry about tax rates. Those are among the many lessons Colorado and Washington have to share from the front lines of America's marijuana experiment.

LESSON ONE: DON'T BE TIMID

Public officials in the pioneering marijuana states were flat-footed when voters made pot legal.

At first waiting for a possible federal lawsuit, then trying to figure out how to monitor and tax a product that had never been fully regulated anywhere in the world, the states spent many months coming up with rules for how the drug should be grown, sold and consumed.

The delays were understandable. But they led to one of the biggest disappointments of the marijuana markets - lower-than-hoped tax collections.

LESSON TWO: DON'T GET TOO EXCITED, EITHER

Both Colorado and Washington have seen tax collections fall below some rosy projections. The effective tax rates are about 44 percent in Washington and 29 percent in Colorado, with plenty of asterisks and local variances.

The states assumed that pot users would pay a steep premium to stop using drug dealers and have clean, safe stores in which to buy their weed. But the tax rates have led to a continuing black market, undercutting the top argument for legalizing in the first place.

Months of delays for permitting and licensing meant that potential pot taxes went uncollected. And limited marijuana supply in both states has further driven up the price of legal weed.

LESSON THREE: THINK OUTSIDE THE BONG

Pot users these days aren't using the drug the same way hippies in the 1960s did. But Colorado and Washington weren't entirely prepared to deal with popular new forms of edible and concentrated weed.

It took more than 18 months for Washington to begin sales of edible pot.

Colorado had regulations for edible pot already in place from the medical market - but it stumbled, too, when the edibles proved a lot more popular than officials expected and many first-timers weren't sure how much to eat.

Colorado has had to go back after the fact to tighten rules on edible pot packaging and dosing.

LESSON FOUR: THINK ABOUT THE KIDS

It's an obvious consequence of legalization - wider availability for adults means easier access for kids.

School districts in both Colorado and Washington have reported more kids showing up at school with weed. There have been more kids treated at emergency room for marijuana ingestions, too.

Marijuana exposure isn't fatal, but the experience so far in both states underscores the need for states to have plans for talking with minors about pot.

LESSON FIVE: THE THIN GREEN LINE

Law enforcement has a big role in reducing potential public safety effects of legalization.

States that legalize pot need a plan in place for how officers determine whether drivers are impaired by marijuana. After legalization, simply sniffing pot in a car or seeing a joint on the seat isn't enough to haul someone to jail.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a DUI, immediately contact a Seattle DUI attorney. A DUI lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle DUI lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce those penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their DUI charge. So it should go without saying that someone cited for DUI should hire a qualified Seattle DUI lawyer as soon as possible. Driving Under the Influence charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with DUI in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle DUI lawyer. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Marijuana Use Increased

Colorado emerged as the state with the second-highest percentage of regular marijuana users as it began legalizing the drug, according to a new national study.

The Denver Post reports the study by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found about 1 out of 8 Colorado residents older than 12 had used marijuana in the past month. Only Rhode Island topped Colorado in the percentage of residents who reported using pot as often, according to the study.

The study averaged state-specific data over two-year periods. It found that, for the 2011-2012 period, 10.4 percent of Colorado residents 12 and older said they had used pot in the month before being surveyed. That number jumped to 12.7 percent in the 2012-2013 data. That means about 530,000 people in Colorado use marijuana at least once a month, according to the results.

Nationally, about 7.4 percent of people 12 and older reported monthly marijuana use. That's an increase of about 4 percent.

In Washington state, which also legalized marijuana use and limited possession for adults, monthly pot use rose about 20 percent to 12.3 percent of people 12 and older.

The survey is among the first to quantify pot use in Colorado since late 2012, when voters approved legal pot use and possession for those over 21. But the survey did not analyze data from 2014, when recreational marijuana shops opened, which means it is not a good indication of the effect of commercial sales on marijuana use.

"I don't think this tells us about the long-term impacts of legalization," said University of California, Los Angeles, professor Mark Kleiman, who studies marijuana policy. The number of medical marijuana patients in Colorado rose over the same time period, so the results are not surprising, Kleiman said.

He told The Post that researchers will have a better idea about pot use in the first state to legalize recreational sales of the drug once they can focus on data showing how many people use pot daily.

"The fraction of people who are monthly users who are in fact daily users has gone way, way up," he said.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a DUI, immediately contact a Seattle DUI attorney. A DUI lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle DUI lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce those penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their DUI charge. So it should go without saying that someone cited for DUI should hire a qualified Seattle DUI lawyer as soon as possible. Driving Under the Influence charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with DUI in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle DUI lawyer.