Among the proposed rules are requirements that the industry ensure public and consumer safety through strict surveillance and transportation practices, criminal background checks, and packaging and labeling requirements.
"Public safety is our top priority," said Board Chair Sharon Foster. "These rules fulfill the public expectation of creating a tightly-regulated and controlled system while providing reasonable access to participation in the market."
The Board also proposed several revisions from previous plans. In an effort to alleviate concerns that the state may earn an objectionable reputation, the Board abandoned the official regulatory logo of a marijuana leaf inside an icon of Washington state. Additionally, in order to expand regulatory flexibility, the Board proposed that the state allow marijuana to be grown outdoors, and not just indoors or in greenhouses.
Public hearings on the proposed rules will be held from August 6 – 8. The final rules will be adopted by August 14 and will go into effect in September of this year. Retail stores are expected to open as early as March 2014.
In an interview released today, President Obama said that going after marijuana consumers will not be a priority of the federal government in states such as Colorado and Washington, where voters approved ballot measures this November making marijuana legal for adults. He also highlighted the need for a conversation about how to reconcile state and federal marijuana laws.
Marijuana officially became legal in Colorado on Monday after Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the voter-approved initiative into law. The measure adopted by voters in Washington went into effect last week. The initiatives also direct the legislatures of both states to create regulations in order to establish a legal market for businesses to cultivate and sell marijuana to adults.
While it is heartening to see Obama reiterating his position on not spending federal resources going after individuals, this does not represent a significant change in policy. Federal policy has not focused on them for some time, as most possession cases are dealt with at the state and local level.
The question is how the implementation of market regulations will be treated. It is time for the Obama administration and the governments of Colorado and Washington to determine how to work together to advance those state-based systems without frustrating legitimate federal interests. We look forward to having this conversation with White House and Department of Justice officials.
It seems like such a conversation is more possible than ever before, and supporters of reform should be cautiously optimistic. As Dominic Holden at The Stranger put it:
Obama is, if nothing else, encouraging more conversation about marijuana legalization instead of promising to shut it down. And the more people talk about this issue, the more it wins.
Denver’s flourishing and tightly regulated medical marijuana industry will be the subject of a “60 Minutes” report this Sunday.
With Colorado voting on whether to regulate and tax the rest of the state’s marijuana market on Nov. 6, this should be an interesting episode.
Viewers can see the segment on Sunday, Oct. 21 at 7:30 p.m. ET and 7:00 p.m. PT on their local CBS affiliate. Those of you in the Denver area can see it at 6:00 p.m. MT on Channel 4.
UPDATE: The full segment can be viewed here.
Department of Justice Takes Steps to Subsidize California Gangs; Threatens to Shut Down Medical Marijuana Dispensaries
In a press conference today, all four U.S. Attorneys in California announced that the administration will no longer ignore dispensaries and will actively prosecute many commercial operations. The attorneys said they will concentrate on criminal prosecution and asset forfeiture against the landlords of medical marijuana dispensaries or cultivation centers, and threaten action against certain commercial organizations. Multiple businesses throughout the state have been given 45 days to close down. To support the increased efforts to eliminate the medical marijuana industry, they claim that it has been overtaken by criminal organizations and harms communities, yet do not offer justification of these claims at the present time. In the absence of regulated and licensed dispensaries, however, many patients will likely be forced to obtain medical marijuana from street dealers and gangs, which will doubtless create additional law enforcement and public safety problems for California.
Despite campaign promises not to spend limited law enforcement resources interfering with state medical marijuana laws and a 2009 Department of Justice policy directive against targeting individuals acting in compliance with state medical marijuana laws, the U.S. Attorneys signaled that they now intend to prosecute individuals who provide that medicine to patients under safe, regulated conditions.
"How can the Obama administration say that it's fine for sick people to use this proven medicine, and yet tell them they can’t have any legal place to get it?” asked Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. “Medical marijuana isn't going away. Over 70 percent of Americans support making medical marijuana legal, and 16 states allow it.”
“The end result of the federal government's policy is to ensure that medical marijuana is sold illegally in most parts of the country, as well as to create needless suffering for patients who can't find a place to buy medical marijuana."
Since 2009, eight states have enacted or implemented laws that set high standards and strict regulations on medical marijuana dispensing, moving away from previous “gray market” models that lacked licensing or regulations. During the previous administration, targeting providers in California did not prevent marijuana profiteers from operating. Instead, a federal policy of interference with state medical marijuana laws pushes states towards programs with confusing legal gray areas and little to no control over the operation of providers.
We will be continuing to post updates on this issue and the response from the medical marijuana industry and patients.
For a full text of the Department of Justice press release, go here.
In the aftermath of the recently release video showing a family terrorized and their pets shot by a SWAT team in Columbia, Missouri, that city's police chief is now saying he supports efforts to change marijuana laws so officers will no longer need to spend time and resources enforcing them.
During a press conference yesterday, Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton went out of his way to state his support for ending marijuana prohibition.
"I applaud your efforts," he told a reporter who asked about campaigns to change marijuana laws. "If we could get out of the business [of going after marijuana offenders], I think there would be a lot of police officers that would be happy to do that."
After reviewing the results of a four-month internal investigation, the chief announced that his officers acted appropriately during the February SWAT raid that resulted in the death of a dog and endangered a young child.
Columbia police are currently updating their policies to hopefully prevent further incidents, but the decision to use extreme force in executing a warrant for marijuana possession has been widely criticized as being contrary to city law. Columbia passed a law in 2004 making marijuana violations the lowest law enforcement priority. Unfortunately, as the chief points out, state laws can still interfere with officers' abilities to go after real criminals.
Chief Burton also acknowledged that violence surrounding marijuana is often associated with the illegal market created by prohibition, and not the drug itself. "Crimes do occur because of marijuana," he said. "And you may make the argument that it's because it's not legal, and you may be right."
And if there was any lingering doubt about the sincerity of his remarks, the chief even gave a big thumbs up to the cameras.
Well, a big thumbs up to you too, chief. Hopefully, you won't have to worry about enforcing irrational marijuana laws for much longer.