Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I-502 Consulting Services to Washington State Liquor Control Board: Update from the Bidders Conference

A crowd of approximately 100 attendees sparsely filled two large ballrooms at the Tacoma Convention Center as potential bidders asked questions pursuant to contract K430 for Initiative 502 consulting services for the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB). I-502 is the initiative which passed in November 2012 legalizing recreational marijuana use in Washington State. The WSLCB issued a request for proposals to support implementation of four key areas of I-502 on January 17th, and the bidders conference was held January 30th; all bids are due by February 15th.  Attendees asked questions of the WSLCB and took advantage of the opportunity to network with each other in anticipation of finding or filling sub contracting opportunities

Bidders Conference for Contracting Services for I-502 Implementation with Washington State Liquor Control Board
Bidders Conference for Contracting Services for I-502 Implementation with Washington State Liquor Control Board
The state contract K430 (which Mr. John Farley, a contract specialist with the WSLCB, occasionally referred to as 'K420' in an adorable Freudian slip) will ideally be awarded to one main contractor who will undoubtedly require the support of some sub-contracting services, given the unprecedented nature of the I-502 initiative.The state's strong preference for hiring one main consultant versus four different consultants for the different categories of expertise makes sense given the tight timelines required to make the deadlines stipulated in the text of I-502.

The four categories of expertise sought by the WSLCB are:
- Product Industry Knowledge
- Product Quality Standards and Testing
- Product Usage and Consumption Validation
- Product Regulation

Due to obvious conflicts of interest, the winning contractor will not be eligible to apply for producer, processor or retailer licenses under I-502 during the time they are under contract with the WSLCB. A number of strong candidates for one or two of the categories were present, but it seems clear that a team will need to be assembled with members who have expertise (and who meet the minimum qualifications) in each of the four categories of expertise. A number of small to mid-sized consulting companies were present, along with a handful of experts in analytical testing services, lawyers and an assortment of cannabis cultivators.

The Federally illegal nature of marijuana presents unique issues for a state contract, as some of the most qualified candidates have ancillary baggage such as felony convictions or other inconveniences. There were thought provoking questions like "my cannabis testing facility was raided by the Feds in 2011...as a non-profit under investigation by the FBI, can I apply using my existing business license, or should I apply for a new one?" One gentleman present presented me (a potential bidder on the K430 contract) with a photograph of his graduating class from Oaksterdam University as his credentials for sub-contracting opportunities.

Members of the WSLCB seem genuinely interested in making I-502 succeed. Mr. Farley was absolutely believable when he told the audience "we want you guys to be successful - we don't want you going to jail for doing what the LCB has asked you to do". Of course, just because the WSLCB wants to see successful implementation of I-502 doesn't mean the Federal government isn't going to get their knickers in a knot once licenses start getting issued and things start happening. There are absolutely no guarantees of how the Federal government will act over the course of I-502 implementation. Perhaps President Obama, an alumnus of the Choom Gang, will take the opportunity of his final term in office to address re-scheduling of Cannabis (from a Schedule I drug to anything else). Only time will tell - but the tide is turning in favor of marijuana legalization and Washington State seems to have the needed support of local legislators.

------------(c) 2013 Stoner Living Blog

This article may be re-published with permission of the editor - stonerlivingblog@gmail.com
 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Dream vs. Reality: Washington's I-502 Legalization

By special guest blogger Nelzino:

The Dream vs. Realities: Washington's I-502 Legalization


So it's legal, finally, in Washington and Colorado and all is well with the world.  But the provisions of Washington's I-502 and the coming state regulation and distribution of marijuana is a mixed blessing for stoners indeed, and there are various parts of this law that many of us find objectionable and short-sighted, if not outright ridiculous.  So to clear up some misconceptions one might have about this current version of marijuana law reform, here are some facts and concerns I and others have that should continue to be analyzed and discussed as the implementation of the law is developed this year.

Product and production is at issue, for it is not uncommon to fear that large farms would be primary providers since the number of growers will be limited without leeway for the production capacity limits of the license producers, which means initially there may be supply interruptions, especially since Washington state has a short growing season, meaning there will be only one or two harvests per year.  The result of such limited production, and the continued prohibition of boutique and "micro" grows, could be very disappointing.  With such a narrow production model we might have to smoke that autumn outdoor crop for the whole year.  Now, nobody wants to have their access to variety compromised, least of all as a consequence of shortsighted and ill-informed assumptions about the realities of the nation's number one cash crop, enshrined in legislation that could be very hard to reform further once it is on paper and considered by the straight population to be quite generous to the movement .

Although many of us cling to the vague hope of there being future adjustments to the law itself that will address these and other concerns, this is unlikely to happen for the foreseeable future, especially when you take into account how long and how tough the struggle to get any form of legalization of marijuana for recreational consumptions, in only two of fifty states in the union, including Colorado, just as it was for legalizing medical use.  And it has been 14 years since the passing of medical marijuana laws in Washington state in 1998.  Any such changes will likely have to be grass roots efforts and possibly through the state initiative process again, which can be, as has been, a gargantuan task to organize, collect signatures, and market to the public.  Despite the myth of stoner apathy and inaction, stoners in two states were very much motivated when this measure I-502 gained some traction among the non-stoner community, to say nothing of the support from prominent members of the law enforcement establishment and the likes of Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, who has long refused to prosecute simple possession charges, although it should be noted that it has been many years since the order came down from on high that the Seattle Police are to make marijuana possession their lowest law enforcement priority, and full legalization has always been the only obvious next step when you consider that King County, which contains most of the greater Seattle area, represents nearly one third of the voting population of the state and is reliably, irretrievably 'blue'.

It has always been a question of how long, o' lord, how long until decriminalization of some sort and degree would come, but it has been decades since the ball got seriously rolling with such advances as the establishment of NORML and other lesser known advocates of decriminalization like the Cannabis Defense Coalition, and even a thing like the sometimes dubious and easily lampooned (albeit often by themselves) form of advocacy that is the ever present and popular High Times magazine deserves some credit for directly or indirectly softening attitudes just by being seen on enough coffee tables to engender a certain familiarity with the subculture, and from familiarity comes acceptance.  Even my mother (not a smoker, mind you) told me of the relaxed attitude towards the herb in the '70s, where in Seattle's University District people would walk down the street openly and unabashedly smoking a doobie and nobody thought much about it.  Now I can't corroborate this account, for I was but a wee lad wandering unawares below any clouds of herb smoke at that time, and my parents may have been somewhat biased to the acceptance of marijuana in American life as long standing progressives with plenty of experience in the counterculture of the 60s and 70s in the Bay Area and Seattle, two preeminent zones of hemp culture, then as now.  But if it were not true, citizens of the entire state of Washington, with the wildly popular passage of I-502, may not so quickly have catapulted the state up to the national spotlight, even though Colorado got much of early press coverage since they passed their legalization law first (due to that stubborn time zone difference).

Now both states and their governments have been suddenly thrust onto the front line in the fight against the wider prohibition by the federal government, represented by the Drug Czar Gil Kerlkowsie (Seattle's former police chief), the DEA, FBI, and not an insignificant amount of manpower on the ground, also increasingly in the air, with the beginning of a proliferation of drones domestically adding to an ever increasing arsenal of electronic surveillance available to law enforcement.  It should also be noted that there have been commensurate expansions of search and seizure laws by the current and recent Supreme Courts, whose composition became increasingly conservative over the last few decades of largely conservative presidents and their appointments of justices willing to whittle away our basic human rights, and the Bill of Rights itself.

Alright, so you knew much or all of this already, but when you put it all together and add it to the fact that there could be a very real showdown between the powers that be in Washington and Colorado vs. the enormously greater (and better funded) powers in Washington D.C., up to and including President Obama, who won't surprise too many folks in the progressive community if he balks on relaxing the federal laws or rescheduling marijuana from a Class One controlled substance to, oh, say Class Five, like alcohol, which has proven and accepted by authorities on the subject to be the most dangerous drug in existence.

One of the most interesting things to come is to see which state will be the first and therefore legal precedent-setting battleground between federal legal supremacy and good ol' fashioned 'states rights' politicking that we have been seeing more and more of lately, most notably the political/legal state actions that have found themselves at loggerheads with the federal government and federal immigration policy, with the most obvious case probably being the battles in court and public opinion over Arizona and Alabama's new anti-immigrant (not to be confused with anti-immigration) statutes, like Arizona's anti-Mexican "show me yer papers" law, as propounded and stubbornly defended by the now legendary Sherrif Joe Arpaio in the increasingly frightening state of Arizona.  Don't lets forget that many of the earliest laws in America establishing marijuana prohibition specifically targeted immigrant populations, notably Mexicans (surprise!) and 'Hindoos'. 

And nothing has changed for marijuana in Arizona or Alabama either.  Or in any other state south of the Mason-Dixon line or East of the Rockies for that matter.  Not even the progressive Northeastern states have made their move (where ya at, Vermont?).  Although hope springs eternal, it may yet be some time before the movement really gains traction there on the political level it has in Washington and Colorado and with the as of yet unsuccessful but still significantly popular legalization attempts in Oregon and, of course, California, the largest and most populous state in the union and arguably the original player in the decriminalization, if not yet legalization, of cannabis, with simple possession in California being punishable only by a modest fine similar to that of a speeding ticket, and which state NORML has long classified as "decriminalized", at least last time I checked.

But for those of us here in Washington State, Decembers 6, 2012 was the day of release from prohibition of marijuana for recreational use.  Yet it comes with significant caveats.  So let's try to dispel some myths and introduce certain realities of I-502 and how they might affect the everyday stoner, or at least one who plans on procuring their herb legally if and when the state creates a system of distribution and production of it's own, although anyone who has any experience in the current subculture of cannabis in Washington State, and in America in general, will tell you that the black market of marijuana will not go away.  Ever.  That is unless there are changes in the law that permit all the current activities that are prohibited to become unregulated and fully legal.  But for now, here are some things about I-502 that make me say "Yay!", and some others that make me say "Boo" and/or "Hiss".

Yay!:  No more fear of arrest for possession, obviously.

Boo!:  But the allowed quantity is limited, albeit arguably generously, at least according to non-smokers or only occasional users, allowing one ounce or, several pounds of edibles, but a whopping 72 ounces of liquid cannabis infused product, which could even mean hash-oil, in which case that would be very generous by any measure indeed.

Hiss!:  The fact that they would only allow a few pounds of heavy, bulky brownies but 72 oz of liquid reveals 1.) how little the state understands this substance that has just become partially uncontrolled, and 2.) the long-established industry that surrounds it.

Yay!:  It's true that smoking in public is still prohibited (although that didn't stop Seattlites from having a huge public smokeout a couple hundred strong under the Space Needle, with bongs and all, on the day the new law took effect), and will be treated similarly to drinking in public.  But the penalty for doing so is quite low, at $50 per ticket, which makes it pretty unlikely that it will be much enforced, especially in Seattle.  However, discretion is advised, because it only takes one pinchy parent to raise a ruckus when their kid is exposed to the oh-so evil herb smoke/smoker.

Boo And Hiss!:  Supply/production is limited to only so many growers.  This is probably the second greatest concern for smokers because of the large number of factors this provision alone will impact.  First, if there are that few producers, there may not be enough legal supply to go around, of any quality at least.  Secondly, since there will be but few growers, they will probably be doing large grows outdoors, and most of us would agree, even in the Pacific Northwest, that it is the rare Washington outdoor product indeed that outshines herb grown in controlled indoor environments with year-round high intensity lighting, which for the record needn't mean hydroponic and can be just as organically produced as outdoor growing projects.  If the licensed grows are large, typically merely once per year harvest, due to our frustratingly short Washington growing season, then for much of the year we will be smoking stuff leftover from the year's one harvest, so that by the next harvest we may still be smoking year old product.  And just as importantly, if not more so, the variety (legally) available to consumers would certainly be constricted.  Less growers, less choices.  Elementary economics that anyone can grasp, and if the state truly wants to fully supply the needs and desires of the consumer, it must recognize and study the connoisseur culture that pervades marijuana users globally, but ever more so in Washington State, which has long been known as producing some of the best, if not THE best pot in the world, and is one of the places where were developed the modern indica strains that make up the bulk of traditional 'kind bud' varieties, accomplished through a long history of selective hybridization and advances in growing horticultural methodology tuned specifically to cannabis, and thus establishing the local standard of painstaking growing practices.  But this reputation could dissolve under a restricted supply market.

Yay!:  It will be easy to get some grass in a pinch, as long as the retail store hours are agreeable (unlike our recently disbanded state liquor stores).  But the black market always has more flexible hours, even if sometimes marijuana dealers may seem to move in slow-motion.

Boo!:  But what you actually get that way will be....whatever you get, since there will be little incentive for these chosen few producers to grow, much less develop, quality stuff if the state only offers a fixed $3 per gram for raw product, as stated in the law, and much more incentive to pull one over on clueless state officials who do not seem qualified to speak for, much less choose for, the marijuana consumer of today.  Hopefully that ignorance will change, and there are motivated folks with the knowledge trying to get involved with the Washington State Liquor Control Board, but how that shakes out is anybody's guess.  And the consumer has become veeeeery picky (are you not?) in the current age where there are even a few medical marijuana farmers markets where you can find hundreds of varieties of pot and innumerable cannabis products, all at very high quality levels in a varied and competitive retail environment.

Yay!:  Lotsa tax money, yeah, sure.  Well, not so sure actually.  Lord knows we need it, but are we actually gonna get it?  It is foolish to assume the black market business and customers will switch en masse to the state sanctioned stores, especially if the stores charge more than ur friendly local pot dealer, particularly if there is a cultivated relationship between customer and dealer, as is common in the pot world.  But ultimately, some tax cash is better than none.

No Effing Way!:  Because by taxing it multiple times, at 25% excise tax, nearing 10% sales tax, etc., the price of state-sponsored, legal marijuana will be jacked up to possibly as much as twice the present going rate of the black market (depending on quality)!  It is arguable that only those who have no present access to pot will resort to the stores selling state grass because they get both better quality and a better deal from their black market connections, and probably better hours as well, if experience with the Washington State Liquor Control Board, who will control and regulate the cannabis industry, tells us anything.  (Remember the ridiculously slim hours/days of operation of Washington State liquor stores?)

So in short, there seems to be a pretty weak theory behing the huge projected tax windfalls I-502 organizers promise:  that people will automatically switch from their current network of dealers to buying in state sanctioned stores, despite any price increases, variety decreases, and quality degradation.  No, no, Washington (and Colorado as well) will remain a place with a large and thriving black market, only now those in it will share in the traditions of the bootleggers of old, forever on the run from the "revenuers".  And doesn't that picture still look a lot like prohibition, especially if one is not allowed to grow their own herb for personal use in the way we currently allow home-brewing of beer?

Yay!:  Drug cartels from out of the country will be essentially forced out of the game, because their grass is already shunned as inferior, especially in Washington State, and no one will be forced to resort to Mexi-schwag if there is better product available down the street in a public store, and it is safe to say that anything grown any way up here will be superior to what comes from Mexico, Columbia, and if experience holds true, even Canadian smoke.  But realistically, there is not much cartel action up here anyway, with most imported marijuana coming from British Colombia and their enormous supply of the fabled "B.C Bud", or more fondly known by connoisseurs, albeit pejoratively, as "The Beaster", and that commerce does not typically involve organized crime in the same way that Mexican and Colombian drug juggernauts do.  So this supposed decrease in associated crime rates/easing law-enforcement costs is largely a non-issue here in Washington, although the impact in Colorado could be more profound due to their greater proximity to Mexico and arguably less developed domestic black market and quality control standards.

Big, long, and loud "BOOOO!":  The controversial, arbitrary, and legally toxic DUI provision that sets an arbitrary and scientifically unsound limit of 5 nano grams of THC as the threshold for intoxication, period.  It functions like the .08 BAC standard that is nearly universal in the U.S. for alcohol intoxication, and which provides the singularly damning tool for law enforcement to harass and persecute marijuana users, whether they are stoned or not.  We all know that THC builds up in fat tissue over time, and contrary to what proponents of the provision would like you to believe, there are studies claiming that 5 nano grams of THC in a heavy user is not uncommon even after many different length periods of abstinence, and such metabolism of THC varies dramatically from user to user, with women shown to retain detectable levels of THC significantly, and close to universally, longer than men, and at least one study I have seen has even suggested that there exist racial disparities in THC retention/metabolism.  These last two factors could suggest a potential for gender and racial discrimination, even unintentionally, in the prosecution of DUID cases (as if racial identity does not already play a role in arrests for marijuana and marijuana-related crimes).

If all this is true, then the arbitrary cannabis intoxication standard enshrined in the new law is mostly meaningless, and the most common refrain in the various studies I have seen on the subject is that nothing can be proven as to THC intoxication "from a single sample" of blood, etc., as it cannot establish time of last use to even the loosest standards of accuracy, especially when a person's tolerance to marijuana is not taken into account, which it of course never is.  And I'm not being unnecessarily alarmist, because it is easier than you might think to get nabbed for a cannabis-related DUI even while not under the influence.

What this means is that if you are a regular-to-heavy smoker, especially a legitimate medical marijuana user on high doses, then your privilege to drive has been effectively revoked, and you risk jail, huge legal bills, parole, probation, and forced rehab (including those cultish AA meetings and so forth), all for driving the day after you last smoked out.  Or the day after that.  Or even the day after that, and so on.  And then ya gotta ride the effin' bus, and that hurts too.  And stinks.  And is inefficient.  And dirty and.....well, never mind my gripes with the pathetic public transportation system in this state and nation.  But you'll be livin' it if law enforcement decides you look the part (and if you are visiting this blog, I'm willing to give solid odds that you do).  This law was based pretty much on one study (see:  Heustis, et al), but if you want to simply get yer Google on, you will find tons of studies that say pretty much whatever you wish to believe, just like anything on the internet.  But again, what was concluded most often in extensive studies was that analysis of any single sample, of anything testable from a person, will be inconclusive as to THC intoxication at the time the sample is taken.

I'm sure there is more to be said on all of the above issues, but you get the idea.

Sure, I would like to get the herb - the right kind of herb - legally, and as easily as going to the store for a six-pack.  I would like to see the state require and ensure the highest quality in the product they offer.  I would like to keep totally wasted people off the road fairly and effectively.  I would like for our budget-beleagured state government to have a sudden jump in revenue, just as much as the next stoner.

But if you ask me now, knowing what we do know presently - and we won't really know much for sure for most of 2013 until the state sets up it's regulated industry standards and mechanisms, since the state says they don't know enough yet for either - then I have to tell ya that it just ain't gonna happen like that.  And with the feds being who they are and doing what they traditionally do where drug policy is concerned, such implementation may not even happen at all, although there has been little signal from the other Washington as to what they will do, and aside from a reasonably well ranked federal official visiting our local officials recently, there has been little interaction/conversation between the two Washingtons on the subjects that are in constant discussion here in Seattle and even the sitting state government in Olympia.

For the record, I voted "no" on I-502, sure that we could do better, since it has been a long time since we have been in any fear of prosecution in my city of Seattle for possession, and I additionally have  my doctor's recommendation in my wallet as a shield for everywhere else.  But for now, for what's it's worth, I don't have to keep my curtains drawn when I spark up or worry about my clothes, breath, or home stankin' of the pungent plant.  None of us can argue that's not a huge improvement, so for now, it's good enough for me for today, if maybe not forever.  And of course ultimately it will require federal approval that for now seems more than a little uncertain.  So the conversation must go on and any stoner knows that further reform will be necessary before we can say marijuana is truly legal, not only in Colorado and Washington State, but in Washington D.C and for every American.  Still, I believe that if we continue to take the lead on this issue (Uraguay's recent marijuana legalization activities not withstanding), the rest of the world will undoubtedly follow.  Fingers crossed.


- Nelzino




Mayor McGinn, I-502 and the Legalization of Cannabis: let's be good neighbors

The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) held its first educational event in Seattle at the swanky Washington Athletic Club on January 28, 2013 with special guest Mayor Mike McGinn. While the mayor tried to play off as any other meeting with a trade association "like the Realtors or something", the press presence loomed large, making it difficult to ignore the historic nature of the post-prohibition business meeting.

Mike McGinn at I 502 Cannabis Industry Meeting
Mayor McGinn: Advocate of the Legal Cannabis Industry and a Neighborly Guy

McGinn's message to the industry was positive, but also reinforced the importance of the industry being good neighbors to everyone else.  After all, 45% of the voters in Washington state voted against I-502. The mayor suggested that the best way to proceed was to be "really thoughtful of the concerns of others." And this would seem to include the concerns of the Federal Government. McGinn was excited - almost exuberant - as he spoke about the possibilities of the legal marijuana industry. He gushed about the local music scene and the new micro-distilleries springing up across the state. But as much as he wanted to share the wealth, he did caution that cannabis tourism touched on interstate tourism (and other stuff squarely in the camp of the Feds) and that avoiding such sensitive areas was the best way to avoid the attention of  the Federal government.

Some of the folks in McGinn's camp seem ready for any such Federal showdown. One such ally, representative Roger Goodman (D, Kirkland), an attorney, stood by during the question and answer session to assist McGinn with questions. He said he was willing to argue the case before the US supreme court, if needed.

McGinn was the first mayor of a major US city to come out in support of full on legalization of marijuana. As he explained it, he didn't even realize the pioneering nature of his stance; while running for office he made some statement about how if everybody who held office that had ever tried marijuana was to vote for legalization it would be legal. It didn't come up again until after he was elected.

A few points were clarified throughout the evening. Vending machines will not be allowed under I-502. Existing medical marijuana vendors will not be grandfathered in and issued retailer's licenses (they won't necessarily be excluded, but they aren't guaranteed a retail license). Existing dispensaries not adhering to the 1000 foot rule specified in I-502 are not exempt from the 1000 foot rule, so the opening of retail 502 stores may bring enforcement to non-compliant medical vendors.

Overall, the tone of the evening was positive and upbeat. McGinn took time to marvel at how quickly legalization of cannabis was progressing. He realized that we have arrived at a "new normal". McGinn, a resident of Greenwood, remarked on the proliferation of medical marijuana dispensaries in his own neighborhood. "They're really putting the green in Greenwood."

Crowd at NCIA Meeting with Mike McGinn
During opening remarks, Aaron Smith of the NCIA reminded attendees that "before it was an industry it was a movement". McGinn encouraged attendees to let the progressive values of Seattle help shape the new legal cannabis industry. He called out the traditional values of Seattle - local, crafted, authentic, small provider/not big chains, no GMO, fair trade - and called on the founders of the new industry to use the values that shaped our local heritage as we create the world of legal cannabis.

As the mayor himself said,  "We can't ask for anything else but to be good neighbors".

--------------- (c) 2013  Stoner Living Blog

Friday, January 25, 2013

I-502 Public Forum on Marijuana Producer Licenses Packs City Hall

The public forum on the licensing of marijuana producers and processors had an overflow turnout at Seattle's City Hall on Thursday night, January 24th, 2013. The crowd filled the Bertha Knight Landies room to capacity and extra seating was provided in the city council room upstairs with video viewing of the proceedings. Representatives from the Washington State Liquor Control Board greeted the audience and made it clear this was a 'public forum' - not a formal rules making session - and that they were in 'listening mode'. Sharon Foster, chair of the board, kicked things off by thanking the public for their interest and noting how unusual it was for any meeting to have such robust attendance (indeed, they seemed to have to scramble to arrange the overflow seating area as such heavy attendance was not anticipated).

Crowd at I502 comment meeting in Seatttle

Crowd at I-502 Public Comment Meeting at Seattle City Hall (January 24, 2013)

Members of the WSLCB present seemed ready to take on the daunting task of overseeing the legalization of marijuana for the first time in modern history. They were engaged and respectful of the audience; their efforts to hold the lengthy list of speakers to their respective two minute limit was appreciated by at least this attendee as the session went from 6 PM to after 9:30 PM. Some of the board members present were Sharon Foster, Ruthann Kurose, Chriss Marr, Brian Smith, Samantha Trotter and Pat Kohler.

Key themes emerged throughout the evening. Some of the suggestions were not relevant given the nature of the initiative process and the process for changing provisions requiring a 2/3 legislative approval. The board members pointed this out politely at several parts of the evening. Some key themes emerged, and some points were clarified by the board.

Themes and Major Issues Addressed by Public:
  • "keep it cottage" - don't cut out small scale production operations
  • the whole world is watching
  • address federal issues including federal tax filing guidelines needed
  • regulated system must out compete black market to succeed
  • processor license & tax step  - does it make sense*
  • limiting plant numbers isn't a bad idea, most numbers were ~100-200 plants, up to 1000
  • concerns about not letting major corporate entities dominate the market
  • need for analytical testing of THC, cannabinoids, molds, pesticides
  • banking, insurance and public safety service availability for producers/processors
  • dont limit license #s
  • drug war vetran amnesty for marijuana felons - allow them to participate
  • recycling facilities for toxic grow bulbs
  • being able to smoke in public (bar scenarios or sanctioned locations - not everywhere)
  • more research needed on per-se DUI laws
  • info on interactions with other pharmaceuticals (antidepressants, antipsychotics) requested
  • a special license class type may be needed for research/breeding operations
  • clarification on medical industry status
One of the themes repeated often throughout the evening was brought up by the first public speaker, Richard Dent, whose message was 'don't forget the little guys.' The cottage industry nature of the Washington marijuana scene was evident in the large number of ma-and-pa operations represented at the meeting, which may come to a surprise to some who believed the marijuana market to be dominated by gang and mafia type interests. That was certainly not the impression given by the room tonight. The famous producer Uncle Mickey summed it up when he exhorted the audience to "remember the love - this is not about money."

But, of course it is about money too - and getting along with the Federal Government, and paying taxes and a bunch of stuff less sexy than love. But passion, expertise and a lot of optimism filled the room. There were collective owners, cultivators, medial patients, lawyers, an addiction medicine specialist, entrepreneurs and more than a few veterans of the drug war who wanted to make sure their dedication to the product they loved and their expertise would not be forsaken by the I-502 rules.

Valid concerns about clear guidelines for product testing and labeling products were brought up repeatedly. A number of interests representing testing services and associated groups were in attendance. Brad Douglass from The Werc Shop, a group providing quality control and analytical services to California companies (but contemplating an expansion into Washington) mentioned the scary fact that 20-30% of the product tested by his group found mold - and pesticide residues are a concern to smokers too. He pointed out that some pesticides go right into the smoker at smoking temperatures. Organic certification options were brought up by several speakers throughout the evening.

Concerns about privacy came up several times, both because of personal privacy concerns but also in the lens of a product category that is still against Federal law. Phil Bocel spoke to suggest implementing some of the new security registry technology being developed at University of Washington to protect citizen privacy while also allowing some sort of registry.

Bo Odyssey Recommends the Book "The Emperor Wears No Clothes"

Bo Odyssey, the legendary 'scarf guy' and regular at City Hall meetings made a few comments reinforcing the important role of hemp in American culture, and recommended Ed Rosenthal's book, "The Emperor Wears No Clothes" to the audience. There were several other citizens interested in industrial hemp concerns who spoke.

Concerns about the "inevitable Federal showdown", as Anthony Gibbs, an attorney, so eloquently put it, also came up repeatedly. Late in the evening, a comment was made that the States Attorney General Ferguson is drafting some sort of state lawsuit to defend Washingtonians in some way - details will surely follow.

The wonderful Dawn Darington, a medical marijuana patient advocate from Choice Wellness and a part of 'All Day Live' was there, bringing her indomitable spirit. She pointed out that humans were meant to be assoicated with the marijuana plant - the human brain has receptors for the compounds in cannabis. As Dawn pointed out, our brains have cannabinoid receptors, but we don't have cabbage receptors.

One positive note for producers closely following this was the clarification by board member Chris Marr that the current LCB interpretation of the initiative was that producers who were also processors would not have to pay the 25% tax step between producing and processing, unless the product was further processed. He said this interpretation was being reviewed by the Attorney General.

Note - this is a breaking news story, please email any corrections to stonerlivingblog@gmail.com

 ----------(c) 2013  Stoner Living Blog

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Bhang Beverages of South Asia – A Cannabis Gift from Lord Shiva

Bhang lassi, a south Asian treat, is a drinkable preparation of cannabis. The term ‘Bhang’ can refer to a number of different cannabis goodies ranging from hash-like concoctions, edible candy-like balls to beverages. According to Martin Booth’s ‘Cannabis – a History’, bhang refers to the lowest grade of cannabis sold in India, cannabis leaves with a few flowers mixed in. The other grades of marijuana are ‘ganga’ – female marijuana flowers, and ‘charas’ – hash. ‘Bhang’ grade marijuana has traditionally been used to prepare edible and medical cannabis formulations, though many bhang lassi producers today use ‘ganga’ grade marijuana in their preparations.  We’ll focus on the beverage preparations popular in many parts of India, bhang thandai and bhang lassi.

Government Authorized Bhang Shop from Stoner Living as featured in Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations
Government Authorized Bhang Shop - from Wikipedia
In Hindu culture, recorded use of cannabis goes back to 1000 BC.  Despite years of prohibition, cannabis remains important in Indian culture, where it plays a role in the institution of ayruvedic medicine. The Indian government licenses bhang vendors and medical preparations of cannabis can be obtained in ayruvedic apothecaries. Consumption of Bhang is associated with the worship of lord Shiva and the celebration of Holi – the spring festival of color. Holi is particularly popular and celebrated with gusto (and lots of bhang) in northern India. One of the main traditions of holi is the use of colored powders on others; festive bonfires are also involved. Lord Shiva is said to have discovered the transcendental properties of bhang, earning him the epithet ‘Lord of Bhang’. The ancient Indian text the Arthaveda describes bhang as a beneficial herb that reduces anxiety. Bhang is used by some holy men to boost meditation and achieve transcendental states.

The classic north Indian bhang beverage preparation, bhang thandai, is made with milk, nuts (usually almonds, sometimes cashews) and spices including lots of black pepper and cardamom. It is sold in marketplaces and by street vendors. There are government sanctioned and licensed bhang shops. Some The city of Varanasi is famous for its bhang preparations, and street vendors prepare and sell it at the ghats (stair terrace areas leading down to the river).

Bhang preparation - grinding cannabis
Bhang preparation - grinding the cannabis. From Khabar Express Website.
Different preparation methods are used to create bhang beverages. Because the active ingredients in marijuana are fat soluble, it is necessary to have fat in some form as a key part of the recipe. Many recipes involve boiling the cannabis in a bit of water, straining out the plant matter and then grinding the plant material into a paste along with some of the fat containing material (whole milk or nuts). A mortar and pestle are used to grind cannabis buds and leaves into a thick paste. Milk, ghee (clarified butter) and ground nuts are added to the cannabis mixture. Spices are incorporated and the beverage is served chilled. 

Bhang lassi is a ‘special’ lassi made with bhang in lassi, a yogurt based beverage. Lassi comes in many flavors, and can either be a savory, lightly salted beverage or can be a sweetened concoction incorporating fruits. Mango lassi is a popular flavor available at Indian restaurants in the US and Europe. 

As with other edible preparations of cannabis, it takes at least an hour for the effects of bhang to manifest. Although not readily available at medical marijuana dispensaries, cannabis aficionados can enjoy a cup of bhang when visiting India. A scene from Anthony Bourdain’s NoReservations shows him visiting a government sanctioned bhang shop in Rajastan where he is offered bhang lassi in three strengths: strong, super sexy strong, and 'full power 24 hour no toilet no shower' strong… whatever that means. Although bhang can be are nutritious and wholesome, consumers should be wary of unscrupulous bhang dealers who are rumored to use other drugs, such as veterinary tranquilizers, to enhance the effects of their wares. Bhang can be prepared at home, and a recipe follows:

From Society for the Confluence of Festivals in India (SCFI).

Flavoured bhang drink
  Ingredients
2 cups water
1 ounce marijuana (fresh leaves and flowers of a female plant preferred)
4 cups warm milk
2 tablespoons blanched and chopped almonds
1/8 teaspoon garam masala (a mixture of cloves, cinnamon, and cardamon)
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 to 1 teaspoon rosewater
1 cup sugar

Method
Bring the water to a rapid boil and pour into a clean teapot. Remove any seeds or twigs from the marijuana, add it to the teapot and cover. Let this brew for about 7 minutes.
Now strain the water and marijuana through a piece of muslin cloth, collect the water and save.

Take the leaves and flowers and squeeze between your hands to extract any liquid that remains. Add this to the water. 

Place the leaves and flowers in a mortar and add 2 teaspoons warm milk. Slowly but firmly grind the milk and leaves together. Gather up the marijuana and squeeze out as much milk as you can. Repeat this process until you have used about 1/2 cup of milk (about 4 to 5 times). Collect all the milk that has been extracted and place in a bowl. By this time the marijuana will have turned into a pulpy mass.

Add the chopped almonds and some more warm milk. Grind this in the mortar until a fine paste is formed. Squeeze this paste and collect the extract as before. Repeat a few more times until all that is left are some fibers and nut meal. Discard the residue.

Combine all the liquids that have been collected, including the water the marijuana was brewed in. Add to this the garam masala, dried ginger and rosewater. Add the sugar and remaining milk.

Chill, serve, and enjoy. 


Please send us your bhang recipe or stories about drinking cannabis for a chance to win a Stoner Living gift bag!
-------------- (c) 2013 Stoner Living Blog

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Cannabinoids and Medical Marijuana - what all those hard to pronounce components in Cannabis do for you

Some of our readers will remember when Cannabis was called grass, you could buy it by the lid, and Thai stick and Panamanian Red were the stuff of connoisseurs. The intervening years have seen a revolution in potency and overall quality as well as consumer awareness of the product itself. The first legitimate forays into contemporary marketing of marijuana have been under the medical model, so it should be no surprise that a plethora of information about the active ingredients in marijuana is available to consumers from medical marijuana dispensaries and seed companies alike. So what do all those difficult to pronounce components do for you?

A plant's cannabinoid profile refers to the specific mixture of the quantity and type of cannabinoids produced by a given plant. Think of it as a window on a strain’s effect and potency.

Table: Cannibinanoids and Their Effects
Over 475 compounds have been identified within the Cannabis sativa plant; of these 66 are classified as ‘cannabinoids’ unique to the Cannabis plant. RaphaelMechoulam (discussed in a previous article) dedicated much of his career to understanding the natural product chemistry of the marijuana plant. The most famous cannabinoid, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC), is the substance responsible for the majority of the psychoactive effects of marijuana. Other cannabinoids, including cannabidiol and cannabinol, alter the subjective experience of the ‘high’ by interacting with the way THC impacts the brain.

Much of the cannabis breeding of the past 30 years has focused on increasing the potency (ie. – the % THC) in strains, with considerations such as yield, pest resistance and other qualities getting some secondary attention. Furthermore, for years many in the breeding community held a belief that strains high in CBD had more of a ‘downer’ high and were seen as undesirable. Modern medical research has shown cannabidiol (CBD) to have tremendous potential as an anti-inflammatory compound with pain mitigating and possible anti-cancer effects.

Q. Why would anybody want a low/no THC strain of marijuana?

A. Medical marijuana users may desire a strain high in medically important anti-inflammatory CBD compounds without the psychoactive effects of a high THC strain.

The advent of the medical marijuana movement has seen the development of some high CBD strains, but it remains difficult for consumers to obtain high CBD/low THC strains even in medical contexts. One example of such a strain is The Remedy, available to qualified medical marijuana patients from the Dockside Coop in Seattle, WA.

Commercial interests have invested time in such ventures; GW Pharmaceuticals, the company behind Sativex, has done extensive research on cannabis breeding. Their website is clear they rely on traditional plant breeding techniques and do not use GMO technology. According to GW Pharma, four genetic loci control the cannibinoid profile of cannabis. They have a nifty explanation of their breeding strategy on their website here. They have numerous patents with specific genetic profiles – including high THC strains and 0 % THC strains.

There are a variety of techniques available for obtaining a cannabinoid profile, including specialized labs offering testing services such as Analytical 360. Other firms offer extremely portable thin-layer chromatography techniques, such as the one produced by Cannatest. Cannatest is a Seattle area business that offers home testing kits as well as testing services. The power to bring analytical testing in-house to cannabis breeding operations is critical at a time when shipping samples via USPS is in violation of federal law. The people at Cannatest also offer a mobile testing service in the greater Seattle area.

HPLC Plate of Cannabis Analysis Performed Using Cannatest Kit
The advent of legalization will see technologies for analytical testing of marijuana becoming commonplace – possibly even required – for the benefit of cannabis consumers. Opportunities for research abound and cannabis with a wide range of cannabinoid profiles (especially the hard to find high CBN/low THC strains) will soon be readily available to the public.



----© 2013 – Stoner Living Blog

Monday, January 7, 2013

Genetic Sequence of Cannabis Sativa

The full genome for Cannabis sativa is downloadable here (the cultivar used was 'Chemdawg'). Available to the public since 2011, only time will tell what will be done with this information. The Cannabis plant has been bred to produce a wide array of phenotypes (and chemotypes) with the use of traditional plant breeding techniques alone.
Chemdog - photo from Green House Seeds

Ignoring the issues of ethics for now, an easy to anticipate and creepy use of this information involves splicing the genes responsible for production of say, THC, into another plant. The easiest target would probably be the hop vine - Humulus lupulus - as it is the only other member of the plant family Cannabaceae. Other obvious targets included members of the mint family. The idea of smoking the  fruit of such plants - 'Frankenbuds' - is a little off-putting, but such technology would free the industrial hemp industry: if any plant can be engineered to produce THC, the argument about cannabis/hemp being confusable becomes moot.

About the Strain:
Chemdawg is a rather potent strain of marijuana, with the Green House Seeds version placing 2nd in the IC420 Growers Cup in 2008. 

A website with information on how to download and assemble the data is HERE. The data is provided by Medicinal Genomics with the help of Nimbus Informatics. Academic use is free of charge. For commercial use,  contact Medicinalgenomics@gmail.com for information on obtaining a license.

---------(c) 2012 Stoner Living


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