Washington State legislators cannot agree on how to divvy up recreational marijuana tax money, so regulation of the medical marijuana industry is dead. Senate Bill 5887 failed to generate the two-thirds support needed to alter a citizen-passed initiative and died today as the Senate adjourned. Republicans supported an amendment that would direct a portion of I-502 tax revenues to the local governments where the new pot shops are located, explaining that this would provide incentive for local governments not to ban such outlets and ensure greater access throughout the state to discourage the black market. Democrats opposed the amendment, calling it a diversion of money promised to the state for local law enforcement that should have lower costs after legalization. Kari Boiter of Americans for Safe Access told the media “(Patients are) the ones left in legal limbo because (the lawmakers) can’t do their job,” referring to an unregulated medical marijuana system the US Attorney has called “untenable” and that certainly violates the federal guidelines on state marijuana distribution.
Maryland’s Senate voted 36-8 on Thursday to support marijuana decriminalization. Under the Senate version, possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana will earn only a $100 civil fine. Anyone under the age of eighteen or an adult caught for a third time will be brought before a judge who may send them to a rehabilitation program. A measure for outright legalization has been tabled for now, lacking enough legislative support to move forward. Democratic Delegate Heather Mizeur, who is running for governor, also has a decriminalization bill in the works. Another bill would simply establish drug-court-style diversion programs for marijuana in all Maryland jurisdictions, completion of which would result in clearing of the arrest record.
An estimated 1,200 people began lining up at 6am to participate in America’s first cannabis job fair in Denver. CannaSearch featured 15 marijuana related companies seeking employees and job seekers from as far away as Texas, Illinois, New Mexico, and Missouri filled the event, seeking cannabis-specific jobs like budtender and trimmer, as well as traditional jobs like ad sales, information technology, and accounting. Tim Cullen, who helped organize the event, says high unemployment is partially to credit for the turnout, but also specific interest in legal marijuana’s “new frontier”. Cullen added, “Cannabis legalization in Colorado has gotten a lot of news, and there are people who are willing to relocate and come to Colorado to be a part of this.”
The ability to successfully cultivate marijuana counts for just 2.5% of the score given to medical marijuana dispensary applicants in Massachusetts, compared to 12% for local support and 15% for strong security systems. That’s bothering successful large-scale Denver medical marijuana grower Kayvan Khalatbari, whose consulting for seven Massachusetts dispensary applicants did not help them land licenses. Khalatbari was shocked when one of the winning applicants called Khalatbari for consultation. “I thought it was weird that we got passed over for someone without cannabis cultivation experience,” said Khalatbari when he learned the applicant, a company associated with former congressman William Delahunt, had no large-scale grow experience. When Massachusetts hired a consulting firm from Virginia to review the dispensary applications, not one member of the seven-person panel had experience in agriculture, cultivation, or medical marijuana. Massachusetts medical marijuana program director says cultivation skill isn’t that important a factor, adding, “We could be selling candy or shoes. This is really about business management and business infrastructure.”
The FBI is refusing to run background checks on Washington dispensary agents, despite continuing to run background checks on Colorado dispensary agents since 2010. The Justice Department will not comment on the discrepancy, issuing only a written statement that reads “To ensure a consistent national approach, the department has been reviewing its background check policies, and we hope to have guidance for states in the near term.” Washington’s legalization law requires fingerprints and background checks of all dispensary agents, but only requires three months’ residence for the many entrepreneurs who’ve flocked to Washington to grow and sell marijuana legally. Washington State Liquor Control Board officials won’t directly address whether lack of the FBI check would prevent an applicant from getting license, writing only, “Applicants have provided the prints necessary for running the check.” Preventing members of drug cartels and organized crime from entering the legal Washington pot business is one of the top federal priorities for tolerating state marijuana sales, so it would seem in the government’s own interest to run those background checks.