Hundreds of eager customers lined up outside of Washington’s newly licensed marijuana retailers on Tuesday to make history by participating in the first legal sales of recreational marijuana in the state. Earlier this week, the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) issued the state’s first 24 marijuana retailer licenses. These businesses represent the first of
First Recreational Marijuana Licenses Issued in Washington
The Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) issued the state’s first licenses to produce and process recreational marijuana today. According to news reports, the licenses were issued to Spokane’s Sean Green who will operate his business under the trade name Kouchlock Productions.
The WSLCB began processing applications for all three license types (producer…
Ethical Challenges for Lawyers in the Face of State Marijuana Legalization
UPDATE: Although the RPC proposal mentioned below is still under consideration by the Washington State Supreme Court, the KCBA Board of Trustees has adopted an ethics advisory opinion to assist the bar in the interim as attorneys consider practice issues under the existing RPCs. The full text of the KCBA Ethics Advisory Opinion on I-502 & Rules of Professional Conduct can be found here.
An interesting question that has arisen in the wake of the passage of Initiative 502 (I-502) — Washington’s marijuana legalization measure — is whether attorneys run the risk of disciplinary action under the state’s Rules of Professional Conduct (RPCs) for advising clients on their marijuana business or for personally participating in the recreational use of marijuana.
Under Initiative 502, both activities are technically legal under state law, however, they remain illegal under federal law, creating a catch-22 situation. When trying to solve this dilemma, the RPCs unfortunately offer no guidance, and there are no ethics advisory opinions that address the issue.
Due to this lack of guidance, Washington lawyers have been left to wonder what the potential consequences might be. Indeed, earlier this month, King County Bar Association (KCBA) President Anne Daly asked in an article on the subject, “where does this leave…the more than 14,000 lawyers in King County who could easily find themselves in [this] predicament?”…
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Seminar on I-502 Impacts on Washington State Business and Real Estate Transactions
Stoel Rives attorneys Susan Johnson and Jim Shore will be part of the faculty for a one-day Law Seminars International conference on June 11 regarding Washington’s Initiative 502 that legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Susan will serve as co-chair of the conference, while Jim will present on I502 implications for employer policies and procedures.…
Washington Liquor Control Board Releases Draft I-502 Rules: what you need to know
Watch for our I-502 draft rules cheat sheet, coming soon!
The wait is officially over, folks. Yesterday, the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) met its projected mid-May deadline to issue initial draft rules implementing Initiative 502 (I-502) (PDF), Washington state’s recently enacted marijuana reform law. The 46-page proposed addition to the Washington Administrative Code gives the public a glimpse into how the WSLCB will potentially regulate such areas as from marijuana product testing, growing licenses, advertising, and package labeling.
For instance, the Board is proposing a number of security requirements on licensed marijuana growers, processors, and retailers. According to the draft rules, (1) marijuana production must take place within a fully enclosed secure indoor facility or greenhouse with rigid walls, a roof, and doors, (2) all employees in any licensed premises must display an identification badge at all times while in a licenses premises, (3) each licensed premises must have a security alarm system on all perimeter entry points and perimeter windows, (4) the licensed premises must have a complete video surveillance and recording system for control areas, and (5) all marijuana licensees must have a traceability mechanism to track the marijuana from seed to sale. …
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Initial Public Forums on Washington’s Initiative 502 Draw Large Crowds
This week, the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) held the first two of six public forums it intends to host across Washington State regarding the implementation of Initiative 502. The first forum was held at the WSLCB Headquarters in Olympia on Tuesday night. According to news reports, hundreds of people flocked to the event to not only provide comments, but to be part of history. Board members were surprised to see that there was standing room only at the event. WSLCB Chair Sharon Foster opened the forum with one word, “Wow!” The Board admitted that they had underestimated how many people would attend the public forums.
Last night’s I-502 public forum in Seattle had a similar turnout. As an article in this morning’s Seattle Times put it, “They came in suits and cowboy hats, with cropped gray hair and long ponytails, and they filled one room at Seattle City Hall and spilled into another, about 400 strong.” At the beginning of the forum, Board members took time to briefly explain the new law to attendees and describe the steps in the rulemaking process that WSLCB will take over the coming months to implement I-502. They also emphasized the importance of public input.
Following that introduction, there were comments directed specifically at the taxes the new law intends to impose. Some urged that the 25% excise tax that will be applied at each level of the licensing system that will eventually be created – producer to a processor, processor to a retailer, and retailer to the customer – is too high. Others countered that the tax was necessary. WSLCB officials noted that they do not have the authority to change the taxes that were voted for by the public. Instead, a change to the tax structure would have to come from the legislature. During the first two years a change to the initiative would require a two thirds majority.…
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Part II: Understanding the Conflict Between Federal Law and Washington Initiative 502
In Part I of our “Understanding Washington Initiative 502” (“I-502”) series, we described how I-502’s licensing regime is scheduled to go into effect late next year. There is no question that I-502 legalizes possession of certain amounts of marijuana under Washington law, and the state licensing structure aimed at regulating the production, distribution, and retail sale of marijuana reflects this fact. But as a Schedule I drug subject to the federal Controlled Substances Act (“Act”), possession and sale of marijuana remains illegal under federal law. I-502 does not change this basic fact, regardless of whether the Washington State Liquor Control Board succeeds in establishing the rigorous regulatory regime envisioned by I-502.
I-502 intends to establish a well-regulated market that will allow Washington state to tax a commodity that had been pushed into the underground economy. Achieving that goal depends on capital investments in the regulated marijuana market in Washington State. But will investors be willing to fund a marijuana start-up if federal law diverges significantly from state law – particularly when federal law includes criminal sanctions? That will depend on the federal government’s response to states like Washington and Colorado that have chosen to de-criminalize marijuana.…
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Issues to Consider Now That Initiative 502 Has Taken Effect
My colleague Wendy Goffe, a trusts and estates attorney in our Seattle office and a regular contributor to Forbes, wrote a fascinating article about Washington Initiative 502 (I-502), the marijuana reform law. As those of you who haven’t been sleeping under a rock already know, the initiative appeared on the November 2012 General Ballot…
Washington State Liquor Control Board Files Notice to Begin Rulemaking Under Initiative 502
Today, the Washington State Liquor Control Board issued its notice of proposed rulemaking to inform stakeholders that the agency is in the initial stage of drafting rules to implement marijuana “producer” licenses and their requirements under Initiative 502. The Initiative was passed by Washington voters earlier this year. During this stage of the rulemaking process…
Part I: Understanding the License Application Process Under Washington Initiative 502
by Susan Johnson and Claire Mitchell
As we reported last week, Washington Initiative 502 (I-502), a marijuana law reform measure which appeared on the November 2012 general ballot, won the popular vote passing by a margin of approximately 55% to 45%. Now that the initiative has passed, as of December 6, 2012, it will be legal for adults aged 21 years and over to possess up to “one ounce of useable marijuana,” 16 ounces of marijuana-infused product in solid form, 72 ounces of marijuana-infused product in liquid form, or “any combination” of all three.
In addition to legalizing the possession of a limited quantity of marijuana for recreational use by persons 21 and up, the initiative also establishes a licensing system for marijuana producers, processors, and retailers to be administered by the Washington State Liquor Control Board. Over the next year, the Board will be charged with promulgating rules and regulations to fully implement this new licensing structure.
Part III of I-502 establishes the licensing regime over marijuana producers, processors, and retailers and explains the procedures for obtaining a license. All license applicants will first be required to pay an initial application fee of $250. Thereafter, each licensed marijuana producer, processor, and retailer will be required to pay an annual renewal fee of $1,000.…
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