Uruguay became the first country to legalize the growing, sale and smoking of marijuana on Tuesday, a pioneering social experiment that will be closely watched by other nations debating drug liberalization....
Cannabis consumers will be able to buy a maximum of 40 grams (1.4 ounces) each month from licensed pharmacies as long as they are Uruguayan residents over the age of 18 and registered on a government database that will monitor their monthly purchases.
When the law is implemented in 120 days, Uruguayans will be able to grow six marijuana plants in their homes a year, or as much as 480 grams (about 17 ounces), and form smoking clubs of 15 to 45 members that can grow up to 99 plants per year.
Uruguay legalizing pot—the fact that the US didn't stop them, that it's politically safe for their lawmakers, that this will pass by without much fuss—is proof that the drug war as we've known it since the '70s is over.
You know who can't wait to get high? Adorable Christmas caroling ladies! As part of the Great Figgy Pudding Caroling Competition, the Beaconettes regaled downtown Seattle passersby this past weekend with everything that's great about legal pot. To the tune of "Mr Sandman," natch:
Let's put this present under the tree: With legalization support this year leaping to 58 percent of Americans, the Obama administration taking a hand-off approach, and songs about taking a "big hit" joining the Christian holiday canon, the war on pot is toast. Lyrics after the jump:
If you'd like to celebrate this historic occasion, head down to the Seattle Center between 4-11 p.m. tonight for the I-502 Anniversary Celebration, sponsored by The Stranger. The event is located in the old Fun Forest area, just behind the monorail station.
Dress warm, and bring some pot to share. Unless you don't have any, then just bring yourself and wait for some pot to find you.
Mike Baker at the AP has created a fantastic Google map of all the locations where applicants want to open marijuana stores in Washington State. Up the I-5 corridor, along Lake City Way, and deep in the industrial flatland of Sodo, pot stores could abound in Seattle.
Check it out here to find the closest pot shop near you.
Props to Baker, who is great on Twitter. But I quibble with one of his comments: "If all these pot shops get approved, Seattle residents will have plenty of options," he says.
Let me put the rest of this post under a fat disclaimer that imperfections with legalization are nonproblems compared to prohibition. That said...
There may be a lots of applications for pot retail shops—and we'll see how many of these are actually approved by state regulators and open up next year—but, as I've written about before, there will be vast pot-store deserts in Seattle due to overlays of federal, state, and local zoning restrictions. So even if there are many pot stores, folks in, say, West Seattle, Magnolia, or Ravenna won't have any options for miles. As RavennaBlog's Twitter presponds to Baker's claim that Seattle will have "plenty" of choices: "Unless you’re in NE Seattle. No good bakeries AND no easy way to get baked."
This past summer, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes testified before the Seattle City Council, pressing them approve a new citation for smoking marijuana in public. The fine should be $50, plus additional penalties that brought the charge to $103, he said. Despite resistance from the police department, which was content issuing verbal warnings, the bill that Holmes submitted to council members said nothing about verbal warnings, and it raised concerns among legal experts that police would issue pot tickets—like pot arrests used to be—disproportionately to people of color.
Holmes isn't an anti-pot zealot. He was a co-sponsor of the state legalization initiative that passed last fall, and he insisted the citation was necessary to make city rules match new state rules that make public pot consumption an infraction. However, it was odd logic: Seattle officers could already issue pot tickets (under state law) without a new city law. But Holmes said he wanted the city to collect revenue—an admission that Holmes seemingly wanted officers to hand out enough tickets to amount to a sizable chunk of new city income. Let's be clear: That would be a lot of pot tickets.
But the council appears to be handing Holmes a firm rebuke.
Council Member Nick Licata introduced a bill yesterday that would halve the fine and includes several provisions intended to stymie discriminatory or overzealous policing. Licata explains, "We wanted something that was, to be honest, more workable and acceptable to the public." Licata says there were a "ripple" of e-mails after The Stranger reported problems with Holmes's bill; he says the new provisions are intended to address "legitimate concerns about disparate impacts on ethnic minorities."
The council's bill made the following changes to Holmes's bill:
State marijuana regulators received more than 800 applications to grow, process, and sell cannabis in the first week of the application window, which runs from November 18 until mid-December. But many of those pot entrepreneurs will face challenges—not from the state, but from local governments that are attempting to block them from opening their doors.
In a legislative committee hearing last week, state lawmakers were particularly concerned with jurisdictions that oppose these legal pot companies. More than 50 cities—including Vancouver, Kent, and Issaquah—have enacted bans on cannabis businesses. But that's not the state's problem, Washington State Liquor Control Board director Rick Garza told the committee. The state intends to issue a license to any qualified applicant, regardless of a city's moratorium on pot businesses, and let the cities defend themselves from lawsuits from licensees.
State regulators just released the list of hopeful pot business owners who applied during the first week of the pot license application window. As expected, it's an interesting assortment of business names. Here's a few selections.
When state-licensed pot stores open in six months, Seattle will face a conundrum: how to deal with tourists who buy pot but have nowhere to legally smoke it. State law prohibits using marijuana in public. Folks also can't smoke inside the retail pot stores, meaning cannabis will have no tavern equivalent (like Amsterdam-style coffee shops).
Seattle also lacks pot-friendly hotel accommodations. Earlier this year, I tried to persuade NORML to hold its annual pot conference here, but the plan fell through because Seattle hotels aren't cool with pot smoking—even in designated smoking rooms.
City leaders have been discussing the cannabis consumption quandary since Initiative 502 passed, and they have issued permits to a very few events that explicitly applied for pot-smoking permission. Last May, Seattle's annual marijuana march received a permit for a weed tent at Westlake Park, and High Times magazine held a huge hash oil free-for-all in September with the city's blessing.
As we make our way through the first year of legal marijuana in Washington State, it's important to remember the world we're leaving behind. There's the soon-to-be-lost language of pot-related euphemism, designed to foil eavesdropping authorities, which the passage of Initiative 502 rendered instantly unnecessary. (RIP, "fuzzy green sweaters," "puffy salad," and "arijuanamay.")
More poignantly, there's the loss of The Dealer and the entirety of pot-dealer culture. For decades, the acquisition of marijuana has required the help of an intermediary, who shouldered the risk of larger-scale marijuana possession for light profit and the right to spin endless soliloquies about Sasquatch sightings to his or her pot-seeking customers/hostages, who offered forced-smile forbearance and tried not to squirm on the dealer's weird sofa—a battle greatly aided by the dealer who welcomed you with a humongous bong hit upon arrival... And so the beautiful dance progressed, until now, or whenever the hell actual marijuana products will be available in stores (see the timeline for legal pot here).
But there's at least one old-school stoner relic that'll probably hang around for a while, especially with Washington State being a relatively tiny island of legality in a nation that still considers marijuana a highly controlled substance: the stain of counterculture criminality. In theory, I-502 put recreational pot smokers in the same class as citizens who enjoy alcoholic beverages. But after decades of Cheech & Chong/Bill & Ted/Dazed and Confused "cannabis culture," can even the most responsible recreational pot smoker fully escape the stigma of stonerism?
Mostly this is just a matter of accumulating enough real-life examples of regular old high-functioning pot appreciators to offset the decades of cartoon stereotypes, and upon posting a call for such citizens on Slog, I found a good, sturdy, respectably wary test subject...
This Month: The First Legal Pot Plants in the Ground
Many of the pot plants that people will be smoking recreationally—and legally—next year are already planted. The reason why? Once licenses are issued next February, state rules will allow cannabis producers a 15-day "don't ask, don't tell" period where they may obtain seeds, starts, and nonflowering cannabis plants from anywhere, no questions asked. Many of those plants are growing right now, scattered across the state among the thousands of medical cannabis gardens.
November 18: State Accepts Applications
Starting on this date, cannabis entrepreneurs have 30 days to submit applications for a business license. The Washington State Liquor Control Board will review producer and processor applications as they come in, says spokesman Brian Smith, but it will hold retail applications until the end of the application window to determine whether it's necessary to conduct a lottery (if the state gets more applications than the number of licenses allotted for a particular region, the lottery will decide who gets a license and who doesn't).
The formulaic dispensary review writer penned this gem yesterday:
The new draft of the proposed ordinance gets rid of the language calling the smell of pot "open and public consumption," leaving odor complains [sic] under the purview of Environmental Health inspectors.
The draft must still be approved by the City Council. It would allow marijuana "possession," but prohibit "display and distribution" in parks and throughout downtown, expanding that area, which in the first draft had only included 16th Street Mall.
"Anyone is free to have marijuana in these locations; they are only prohibited from waving it around," Nevitt said in an email to other members of the council. The first Libertarian activist will start "waving around" marijuana in 10, 9, 8...
Compare that to the original:
In our fuzzy green new pot guide, I appeal to our legal marijuana industry to create a product that prohibition always suppressed: joints high in flavor but with only enough THC to give you a mild buzz (instead of the intense powerbud that's all over the West Coast these days). Since fewer than 20 percent of the people who have smoked pot within the last year use it daily (or near daily)—most used it within the last month—low potency pot is not only fine, it would be preferable. Smoking anything is bad for you, admittedly, but these infrequent users just don't smoke enough for an occasional low-potency joint to be a real health problem.
But some heavy pot smokers are enraged (they apparently need to smoke a joint). They want powerful pot for everyone, and only powerful pot, and say my suggestion is tantamount to requiring everyone to smoke dirtweed manufactured by Marlboro (I actually advocate for a high-quality product, but whatever). They even say that wanting low-potency pot is like wanting to lock people up for smoking pot:
jesus christ, are you a fucking moron? do you actually support prohibition but are trying to keep your street cred? this is the same bullshit argument that's been made against pot for decades...there's SO MUCH MORE thc now, it's dangerous, blah blah blah. JUST TAKE ONE HIT, or a half hit, or a micro hit. or buy a fucking strain at the LEGAL POT STORE that is low in thc. is that so hard?
hell, maybe i can help you out. i have a huge bag of vaporized weed in my freezer. i thought the shit was pretty useless, but maybe i can mark it up a couple hundred percent and sell it to dweebs like you as "ultra low potency" cannabis.
Posted by tainte on November 1, 2013 at 8:07 AM
total pussy shit, this is a market for people who dont really smoke weed. if a joint gets you too high, which i will never understand, just buy a bowl and take a few hits of some really good bud, you'll end up smoking less and getting the high that you are looking for instead of smoking whatever it is they would be putting in these low grade joints and having to take an entire joints worth of smoke into your lungs to get the same high.
Posted by weed on October 31, 2013 at 2:03 PM
Give potency. I'll just some less(or more) to suit. Who the hell smokes joints anymore? Ok i do on occasion, but I'd rather use a bong or pipe. In fact I'm mostly vaping herb. Increasingly I vape oils with a pen. Join the 21st century Dominic.
Posted by jeffy on October 31, 2013 at 6:46 PM
I smoke cigars for the taste. I smoke cannabis to get high. This is a HORRIBLE idea. I'll grow my own, thank you very much. Keep your goddamn grubby greedy government hands off of it!!
Posted by C D F on October 31, 2013 at 12:07 PM
But not everyone agrees:
Three years ago, local businessman Ian Eisenberg bought a defunct restaurant and a car wash at 23rd Avenue and East Union Street, a key junction in Seattle's Central District. "I kept complaining that somebody needs to do something to clean it up," he recalls. "The car wash had a chain-link fence, and the Philly [cheesesteak] shop was boarded up."
Now Eisenberg has plans for a pot shop on those properties—or other parcels he bought nearby. But why place a pot store there? The intersection has a notorious history of open-air drug sales, gang violence, and failing businesses.
Two polarized camps dominated the pot conversation last year: On one side were stoners doing gravity-bong hits, and on the other side were cops warning that legal pot would lead to toddlers freebasing heroin. But one group was left out of the discussion entirely: people who had never smoked pot—because pot was illegal—but planned to try the stuff when voters legalized it.
I tracked down a few of these greenhorn stoners.
Eric and his wife, Jenny, smoked pot for the first time last December, just after Initiative 502 became law. "Our first foray into getting pot involved me deliberating for two weeks before reaching out to a neighbor to score us an eighth," he says. "I finally got the courage to ask her via text message."
Taking up pot smoking has been a healthy bonding experience for the couple, Eric says, because, among other things, they tend to stay home more, get stoned, and cook dinners together instead of heading out to a restaurant. The middle-class couple eat healthier, and he's lost 40 pounds since February, partially due to the fact that they now drink just once or twice a month instead of three or four days a week.
My older brother Michael was the first person to get me stoned. I can't remember most of the stuff we talked about that evening because, uh, I was super stoned. But I do recall one thing he said: "When pot is legal, they will sell a strain of marijuana that is high in flavor—but low in potency." That sort of low-octane pot would allow people to smoke a whole joint, enjoying the sweet taste of the bud, while getting just a mild, manageable buzz.
Such a product would suit the vast majority of pot smokers. Of the roughly 100 million Americans who have smoked marijuana in their lifetime, most use pot infrequently and, thus, have a low tolerance. Specifically, the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 31.8 million Americans consumed pot in the last year, while only 17.4 million used it in the past month, and only a tiny subset, 5.4 million people, smoked pot daily or almost daily.
In other words, only a fraction of pot smokers need powerful weed to get high.
Still, brain-stunning superbud dominates the existing West Coast marijuana market.
Will legal pot kill stoner culture? Can the first legal marijuana businesses actually make money? Are greenhorn potheads drinking less booze? Is the ideal joint low-potency? Find out:
Gallup, the leading pollster of opinions in the United States, has been tracking attitudes toward marijuana legalization since 1969, when a mere 12 percent of Americans supported it. That figure crept up to 31 percent by 2001. Then last year, Gallup reported that the country was roughly split.
"For the first time," a giddy Gallup writes, a clear majority of Americans now believe that marijuana should be legal. Fifty-eight percent of people support legalization. That's a 19-point lead over those who think it should be illegal.
I don't want to belabor this point—wait, yes, I do want to belabor this point, I want to belabor the shit out of this point because it's goddamn wonderful—but going from an even split to a 19-point lead in one year is a gigantic, rapid leap.
This is obviously the result of Colorado and Washington State legalizing pot last fall. Lots of people will probably say attitudes changed because the sky didn't fall in those states, and now voters are comfortable with da weed. Others will point out that those initiatives made pot a national issue and, thus, having the conversations promoted more support—just as ballot measures and court cases did for attitudes toward gay marriage. I think those are probably right.
But I think there's another, maybe even bigger, impact of two states legalizing pot.
People now think that legalizing pot is possible.
Legalization had seemed impossible because it wasn't happening. People didn't support it because it didn't seem realistic. The issue was waterlogged by counterculture and it never seemed to pass. But pot legalization has finally proven it's a real issue. The federal government has even given the okay to states. And now that Team Legalize is winning, people want to join the winning team. It's mainstream. So what should we do now? We should run pot initiatives in as many states as possible. It doesn't matter if we lose a few here or there—we move the dial toward legalization just by talking about it. If a measure loses in California, Oregon, Maine, Maryland, etc.—who cares?—support is accelerating faster and faster.
Pot won the war on pot.
Earlier this month we revealed state plans to end medical cannabis as we know it: to reduce patient possession limits, remove patient growing rights, and eliminate certain defenses for medical cannabis patients charged with pot crimes.
This afternoon the state's medical cannabis workgroup—comprised of the liquor board, health department, revenue department, and the governor's office—released their formal recommendations, and they are just as drastic as we initially revealed.
The basic idea is that the voter-approved medical cannabis law would be mostly scrapped, and patients who are accepted into a proposed government registry would be allowed tax
deductions exemptions on pot, which could only be purchased at I-502 stores. Among the recommendations:
Earlier today Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn signed an ordinance to create legal pot zoning in the city. This was the last day he could sign or veto the legislation—everything is last minute in pot-loving Seattle—and the mayor pondered the decision at length because he disapproves of a clause that requires medical cannabis dispensaries to shut down if our action-oriented state legislature doesn't create a special license for them next year.
"If the State Legislature does not specifically address medical marijuana in the next session, this ordinance could force the wholesale closure of many providers on January 1, 2015, and substantially restrict Seattle residents' access to medical marijuana," the mayor wrote in a letter to the council.
Mayor's Office spokesman Robert Cruickshank told me earlier this week that the mayor was actively talking with many different stakeholders, from patients to the Port to the Liquor Control Board. "We've heard a range of opinions from a lot of people on this one," he said.
In the end, the mayor felt it important to move forward with legal pot zoning regulations, and that the city council has time to reconsider the medical pot shop requirements if the state legislature fails to act.
"As I-502 is implemented, the City should also work to ensure that medical marijuana remains safe, accessible and affordable to those in need," McGinn wrote.
If so, I'd like to talk to you about your decision to become a pot smoker for our annual pot-lovin' Green Guide.
Why did you refrain from smoking pot before it became legal, and what about the passage of Initiative 502 made you change your mind and go green?
What were your perceptions of pot (and pot smokers) before you became a regular smoker?
What have your experiences with pot been like since you became a regular smoker?
Has smoking pot affected how much alcohol you consume? How long did it take you to go from experimenting with weed to freebasing heroin?
I want to ask you all these questions and more! So email me, ideally today or tomorrow, if you're a pot-smoking neophyte and you'd like to talk about your experiences.
Rest assured, your identity will remain anonymous. (Unless you don't want it to be!)
Last year, Washington State voters legalized the recreational use of marijuana, essentially putting recreational pot smokers in the same class as those who enjoy alcoholic beverages. But after years of Cheech & Chong/Bill & Ted/Dazed & Confused "cannabis culture," could even the most responsible recreational pot smoker fully escape the stigma of stonerism?
For example, if a known pot-smoker makes a mistake (a typo, a forgotten appointment), pot may be cited, even jokingly, as a contributing factor, in a way that, had a wine-lover made the same mistake, few would be inspired to draw a direct line of causation (even jokingly) to their wine cellars.
But we figure lots of pot smokers who used to be in the closet are coming out.
We want to interview mainstream folks who smoke pot—and used to be in the pot closet—but now that pot's legal, are proud to say they smoke pot.
This is just a matter of accumulating enough real-life examples of regular old high-functioning pot appreciators to offset the decades of cartoon stereotypes, and there have got to be some local folks leading the charge in coming out as high-quality citizens who also happen to be responsible stoners.
Are you or is someone you know one of these out-and-proud stoners? If so, I'd like to talk to you/them. (The mainstreamier the subject's job, the better.) Drop me an email here.
In a meeting still underway, the Seattle City Council passed a bill that could effectively ban medical marijuana dispensaries within the city limits by requiring the dispensaries to obtain a state medical-marijuana license by 2015—a license that does not exist.
"Requiring medical [marijuana dispensaries] to have a license when the license does not exist is completely unfair," said Alex Cooley, vice president of Solstice, which operates a medical-marijuana growing facility in Sodo.
The council made it clear last week that the city intends to nix medical marijuana dispensaries, in essence, by requiring them to obtain the same licenses and abide by the same regulations as recreational pot stores, which were legalized last fall by Initiative 502. Currently more than 100 medical dispensaries operate in Seattle; the state is expected to license 21 recreational pot stores in the city by next year. As the council wrote in a letter to the governor on September 30, "If relatively easy access to medical cannabis continues, the goals and potential of Initiative 502 will be undermined." After expressing the city's interest in regulating the pot markets, the council went on, "This could mean combining the general adult cannabis market and the medical cannabis market into a single, regulated system."
The big change is that the big changes made last time were undone. The Port of Seattle and the Manufacturing Industrial Council absolutely do not want pot growers in their neighborhood, so the council intends to ban grows in the Industrial General 1 zoning. I complained about this in July, and was pleased to see the last revision had ditched the Port's pot grow prohibition request.
But the MIC and the Port of Seattle got their way in the latest draft, and once again the council intends to ban cannabis production facilities in one of the biggest blocks of contiguous land that can reasonably support such facilities. To visualize my point, I made a map. Councilmembers Bagshaw and Harrell are proposing amendments on Monday, and Harrell's would put the IG-1 back on the grow table.
The Seattle City Council meets this Monday, October 7 at 2 p.m. at 600 4th Ave. More info is available on the Marijuana in Seattle site.
The Washington State Liquor Control Board just announced the timeline for its legislative recommendations on medical cannabis.
Last June, the state legislature passed a budget rider that required the agency, along with the Departments of Health and Revenue, to identify legislative options to regulate the medical cannabis industry, which some claim is untenable now that voters legalized cannabis.
The state workgroup has been meeting in private since July—and has been sued for allegedly violating the state's Open Meeting Act—and is expected to release its recommendations next month. Here is the complete timeline:
The original review was based on shoddy research by cannabis consulting contractor BOTEC Analysis, run by California professor Mark Kleiman. In July, I exposed several errors in their research, which in numerous places concluded the exact opposite of its source material—resulting in undue criticism of indoor pot growing, an industry well deserving of accurate scrutiny.
BOTEC provided an updated report earlier this month—one of the last items it owed the state. In total, the company earned over $800,000 on the consulting contract, eight times the amount originally budgeted by the liquor board.
The new filing addresses several errors I asked about, including a statement that light bulbs used for indoor pot production can not be recycled—a claim sourced from a group lobbying for outdoor marijuana production. "HID light bulbs and all mercury containing bulbs are now required to be recycled under RCW 70.275.080."
As more and more city and county councils enact I-502 moratoriums, a few cities and counties have taken steps to proactively set zoning for future legal cannabis businesses. Snohomish County is actively considering where to allow such businesses, and the county planning department will meet on the matter tonight at 5:30 p.m. A county council hearing is scheduled for tomorrow morning at tomorrow at 10:30 a.m.
Snohomish County is slated to have 35 retail pot shops, with 16 of them in unincorporated parts of the county. The planning department released proposed legal pot zoning regulations which will help those pot businesses figure out where to lease. The catch? Pot shops will be allowed in 0.58% of the county-controlled zoning. That's a total of 11.23 square miles of unincorporated Snohomish County where a cannabis retailer may locate.
The Snohomish County Planning Department cannabis zoning meeting is 5:30 p.m. tonight in the first floor meeting room at 3000 Rockefeller Ave in Everett. Tomorrow's 10:30 a.m. county council meeting is in the same building on the 8th floor.
This was originally posted at 9:54 a.m., updated with a response from the city attorney's office, and moved up the blog stream.
The Seattle City Council is considering legislation to create municipal marijuana DUI misdemeanors. According to the city's law department, the move is being sought primarily so the city can capture the revenue from potential pot law violations.
"[For] crime prosecuted under state law in municipal court, any fine revenue goes to the county rather than us," Assistant City Attorney Richard Greene told a public safety committee meeting on Wednesday.
Council Bill 117918 would add a marijuana boating DUI to Seattle's criminal code. While similar to a state law passed by the legislature earlier this year, which sets a legal limit of 5 nanograms THC in a boater's bloodstream, the city proposal also says any amount of THC in the bloodstream can be evidence of a boating DUI.
The Washington State Liquor Control Board will announce later today that it is scrapping a rule about how the agency will measure distances between legal pot shops and schools to meet demands from the US Department of Justice, sources say.
Initiative 502 requires a 1,000-foot buffer between such places, and in the final pot rules announced last week, the agency had decided to measure that distance by "common path of travel" rather than "as the crow flies." The federal government is up in arms about this legal interpretation, and thinks it should be more difficult to site cannabis retailers in Seattle.
I asked WSLCB and DOJ yesterday about the upcoming announcement, and both remained mum. Seattle DOJ spokeswoman Emily Langlie said it would take the department some time to get back to me. Liquor board spokesman Brian Smith responded to me this morning with news of an impromptu press conference this afternoon at 2 p.m.
"All I can say is that's what it's about," said Smith when asked specifically if the news conference is about the federal government's demand that the agency scrap its 1,000-foot rule interpretation.
The High Times US Cannabis Cup is happening this weekend at Freemont Studios in Fremont. Hundreds of vendors are giving out free hash oil hits like the weed world is ending tomorrow. It is a bit amazing, really. I've never seen so many propane torches in one place.
They are also giving out free pot, and—despite the official rules against sales—selling concentrates at many a booth. Even California dispensaries are up here hawking herb to anyone over 21. What a difference a year makes! Here's some photos, if you can't motivate your free-marijuana-loving self down to Fremont.