September 8, 2013

In Northwest, pot is the new gold rush

Thousands may apply for licenses as Washington state prepares to open 334 marijuana stores.

By ROB HOTAKAINEN/McClatchy Washington Bureau

(Continued from page 1)

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Strains of marijuana are displayed during the grand opening of the Seattle location of the Northwest Cannabis Market. The market hosts nine permanent vendors, as well as daily vendors of a variety of dried medicines.

The Associated Press

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Vendor Jeff Simmons, right, smiles as he holds up a jar of marijuana for Dylan Tracy to sniff during the grand opening of the Seattle location of the Northwest Cannabis Market for sales of medical marijuana products on Feb. 13.

The Associated Press

SELLERS FACE LEGAL RISK

Without a change in federal law, Kleiman said, licensed sellers face a big legal risk. He noted that the Justice Department is only offering guidance to prosecutors and that U.S. attorneys still have the discretion on whether to file charges. He said the guidance did nothing to change the fact that marijuana remained illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

Moreover, any guidance from the Justice Department could easily change when Obama leaves office in 2017.

As an alternative, Kleiman wanted the Justice Department to sign contractual agreements with Washington state and Colorado, allowing them to legally sell marijuana in exchange for their help in preventing interstate shipments of marijuana. He said the federal government didn't have enough agents to do the job on its own.

With the Obama administration and Congress spending billions each year to fight drug trafficking, Sabet said, the new policy is sure to prompt questions from other countries. Earlier this year, the International Narcotics Control Board warned that a decision by the United States to allow the two states to proceed with their plans would violate drug-control treaties.

"What does a country like Mexico -- that is being told to reduce its supply -- do when the federal government tells the states (they can) go ahead?" Sabet asked.

He said U.S. diplomats would be forced into the uncomfortable position of having to scold other countries for not doing enough to fight drugs while they "pretend that Colorado and Washington are not under their purview."

"That makes no sense to the international community," Sabet said.

 

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