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Measure before Legislature could wipe out pot convictions for 200,000 people

OLYMPIA — Washington could wipe out as many as 200,000 convictions for misdemeanor marijuana possession for adults who don’t have anything else on their criminal records.

A proposal in the Senate calls for automatic clemency for anyone over 21 convicted of marijuana possession after Jan. 1, 1998, the year voters legalized the drug for medicinal use. A person with multiple misdemeanor marijuana possession charges would be eligible for having their record wiped clean, but a person with any other crime on their record would not.

“Things that are legal now should be vacated from previous convictions,” said Sen. Joe Nguyen, D-West Seattle. “This is really a matter of equity and justice.”

Sen. Jeff Holy, R-Cheney, a former law enforcement officer, said he generally agrees with “getting rid of obstacles that don’t serve any purpose.” Although wiping a person’s record clean would have been a simple thing 50 years ago, he said, today that information could remain available on social media and elsewhere on the internet, even if it’s cleared from court records.

Nguyen said the Legislature should consider this a good first step and “control what we can control.”

A representative from the Cannabis Alliance, a group of marijuana-based businesses, told the Senate Law and Justice Committee it supports Nguyen’s bill.

But the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs said the state already has a process for vacating past convictions by going back to court. The group questions the ability of someone with multiple convictions to have his or her record wiped clean, spokesman James McMahan said.

Gov. Jay Inslee also has instituted a process for people with a single misdemeanor marijuana possession convictions to apply online for a pardon, he said.

In new book, WSU Vancouver professor sees benefits of legalized marijuana

In the months after Washington voters approved legalized marijuana in 2012, Clayton Mosher, a sociology professor at Washington State University Vancouver, noticed what he believed to be unnecessary safety concerns.

Years after sales began, Mosher believes the apprehension has been proven to be unwarranted.

“We’re only four years out, but I don’t think you’re going to see a lot of negative outcomes,” Mosher said. “We’ve done a really good job in our state, I think.”

Mosher, who has studied marijuana policy for roughly 30 years, recently released his new book “In the Weeds,” which he co-wrote with Scott Akins, an associate sociology professor at Oregon State University. The book traces the evolution of society’s views on the drug and how it has affected policy.

The book tackles the effects, medical applications and possible harms of marijuana. While legalization across the U.S. won’t happen in the foreseeable future, and the rollout of some states’s new marijuana laws have been clunky, the benefits have considerably outweighed the risks in Washington, Mosher said.

One of the chief concerns following the 2012 vote was that easier access to the drug would lead to more motor vehicle crashes. In 2016, 110 Washington drivers died while under the influence of the drug, according to a 2018 report from the state Traffic Safety Commission. By comparison, 132 people died while under the influence of alcohol, 152 from speeding and 154 from distracted driving.

“The idea that it was going to lead to this carnage on the roads is really not manifesting,” Mosher said.

Another concern was that youth use would rise sharply. In 2016, 26 percent of 12th graders reported using marijuana in the previous 30 days, according to the most recent Washington State Healthy Youth Survey. Rates were lower for younger students.

Mosher said the state has established a system of robust checks on marijuana dispensaries that has limited the number of teens accessing the drug.

Some studies have linked marijuana to psychosis, schizophrenia and other mental illnesses. Mosher questioned how those studies quantified their results and characterized many of the conclusions as correlational.

“We really don’t know what’s going on there,” Mosher said. “It’s by no means a proven relationship.”

Mosher also recognized some issues with marijuana.

On the business side, he pointed to a lack of proper licensing restrictions — especially in Oregon — as a major reason the drug has been overproduced, dramatically lowering prices. Also, while risks to teens are not as pronounced as many thought a few years ago, some attitudes toward marijuana are problematic, he said.

“A lot of people think, especially young white males, that ‘I drive better when I’m smoking pot,’” Mosher said.

But the few negative outcomes don’t harsh legal marijuana’s high, Mosher said.

Mosher specifically pointed to safety benefits — a better ability to test marijuana for pesticides and mold — and revenue — hundreds of millions of tax dollars collected by the state each year. He added that the revenue could be directed toward education about how to safely consume the drug, including campaigns against driving under the influence.

A major takeaway from “In the Weeds” is that marijuana has been used for many centuries and has not caused the issues that many have theorized, Mosher said.

“If the sky was going to fall, it probably would’ve fallen by now,” Mosher said, “Legalization didn’t create marijuana, and we’ve seen some positive effects of this.”

Oregon eyes allowing home delivery of liquor

PORTLAND — In Oregon, having a pinot gris or a potent indica delivered to your door is as simple as a few taps on the iPhone. But try to get a bottle of Irish whiskey without leaving the house and you’re probably out of luck. Under the state’s highly regulated liquor distribution system, home deliveries are out of the question. State Rep. Margaret Doherty says that’s an outmoded policy.

“Here in Oregon it is legal to deliver marijuana to your home, but you can’t deliver hard liquor,” said Doherty, a Democrat from Tigard.

This session, she’s pushing a bill that would change that. Under House Bill 2523, the state would have the ability to license for-hire delivery services to spirit spirits from the liquor store to your doorstep. These cognac couriers would be required to confirm purchasers are at least 21 and not intoxicated before handing over the goods, and to allow the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to inspect records of deliveries.

Doherty sees the move as a way for liquor stores to reach more consumers.

“In this day and age when we have everything delivered to our houses, I think it’s a tool that OLCC agents can use to market their products,” she said.

The idea was raised by elderly residents of Doherty’s district, who saw a glaring disconnect between the ever-growing list of things they could have delivered to their door — meals from their favorite restaurants, groceries from a nearby supermarket — and the continued inability to have liquor delivered. Doherty says the bill applies just as well to younger consumers, accustomed to deliveries in the age of courier services like Caviar and Postmates.

Questions remain: What kind of training would delivery service employees be required to undergo? What type of vehicles would be eligible for delivering liquor? Would those vehicles have to store bottles in a lockbox? Those and other questions would likely be answered during an OLCC rule-making process if the bill passes, Doherty said.

So far, HB 2523 hasn’t seen vocal opposition. The OLCC has a neutral stance on the bill, and the Oregon Beer and Wine Distributors Association supports the measure, though its members’ products are already eligible for home delivery.

Oregon Recovers, a statewide coalition focused on substance abuse, does not have a position on the bill, according to Director Mike Marshall.

Going green: States would get free hand under pot bill

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden proposed legislation Friday that would give states a free hand to allow legal cannabis markets without the threat of federal criminal intervention, the latest push in Congress to bolster the nation’s burgeoning pot industry.

The proposal, identical to a bill in the House, aims to ease the long-standing conflict between states where cannabis is legal in some form and the U.S. government, which categorizes marijuana as a dangerous illegal drug, similar to LSD or heroin.

“The federal prohibition of marijuana is wrong, plain and simple,” Wyden, a Democrat, said in a statement. “Too many lives have been wasted, and too many economic opportunities have been missed.”

It remains unclear if Wyden’s bill would have a chance of clearing the Republican-controlled Senate.

The Democratic majority in the House appears more open to considering proposals to ease federal restrictions on marijuana. The chamber has set a hearing next week on a bill intended to make banking services more widely available for pot companies.

A proposal similar to Wyden’s previously languished in the Senate and House.

However, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat carrying the current bill in the House, said voters have “elected the most pro-cannabis Congress in American history.”

“It’s tough to see how things will shake out, but there is a very serious chance cannabis policy reform will move in the Senate,” said Morgan Fox of the National Cannabis Industry Association.

Most Americans live in states where pot can be legally purchased for medical or recreational use, and the move to loosen federal restrictions on marijuana came as the issue has played into the emerging 2020 presidential campaign.

The proposal would take marijuana off the federal controlled substances list, and remove federal criminal penalties for individuals and businesses acting in compliance with state marijuana laws.

It would also reduce barriers for legal marijuana businesses to get access to banking.

The bill is part of a three-bill package: A second would impose a tax on marijuana products similar to federal excise taxes on alcohol, while a third would allow state-legal marijuana businesses to claim tax deductions and credits.

Justin Strekal, political director of the pro-legalization group NORML, said in a statement that the proposal is another sign of the “growing public support for ending our failed war on cannabis consumers.”

Former House Speaker John Boehner, who sits on the board of cannabis company Acreage Holdings, on Friday announced the formation of an industry-backed lobbying group that would push for national marijuana reforms.

Bill: Protect transplant patients who use marijuana

SALEM, Ore. — Oregon lawmakers may tighten restrictions on the state’s organ transplant centers to ensure they don’t discriminate against patients based on marijuana use.

House Bill 2687, sponsored by Rep. Rob Nosse, D-Portland, would stop medical providers from recommending that transplant candidates be removed from the organ waiting list managed by the nonprofit United Network for Organ Sharing because they tested positive for pot, the Statesman Journal reported.

In Oregon, more than 850 transplant candidates are on the wait list for organs, according to the organ network. About 340 transplants were performed in Oregon last year.

For some, symptoms before surgery are severe enough they turn to medical marijuana for relief.

Responding to Nosse’s bill, the state’s major transplant centers disputed turning patients away based on marijuana use.

“No transplant candidates are turned away from the OHSU Transplant Program because they use marijuana,” said Tamara Hargens-Bradley, a spokeswoman for the Portland research hospital.

However, “a patient who meets the criteria for substance abuse disorder, and does not follow through with recommendations set forth by our selection committee, could be turned down for a transplant,” she said.

Piseth Pich, a community relations official with Portland-based Legacy Health, said, “Patients being considered for transplant are assessed using a number of different factors that may include positive drug tests for marijuana as we do with other factors such as alcohol or chronic opioid use within the context of a patient’s overall risk-benefit ratio for transplant.”

“That being said, it’s difficult to identify a specific number of patients who may be considered less for a transplant based on one factor alone,” Pich said.

Patients in need of organ donations can wait years to receive one that’s a good match for them, if they receive one at all. Once a transplant is completed, there’s a chance the recipient’s body could reject the foreign organ.

Representatives from OHSU and Legacy Health have voiced concerns with Nosse’s bill, pointing to the high demand for organs up against the lower number of transplants, as well as issues related to smoking pot.

Dr. William Bennett, medical director at Legacy Transplant Services, said in a letter to lawmakers the bill “attempts to legislate unsafe standards of care for transplant medicine.”

“The consequences of marijuana in kidney transplant recipients are well-known and the adverse effects of marijuana have been well characterized in recent publications,” Bennett said in the letter.

Smoking marijuana is as risky as smoking tobacco for cardiovascular health, he wrote. An OHSU handbook for post-transplant care also states that using pot “can cause lung and brain fungal infections.”

In the letter, Bennett contended Legacy does not remove patients from a transplant waiting list just because they are a registered medical marijuana card holder, but patients are required to avoid using marijuana because of the risks.

“Transplant centers should reserve the right to consider positive drug tests, as we do with other factors such as alcohol or chronic opioid use, within the context of the patient’s overall risk-benefit ratio for transplant,” he wrote.

Federal policy kills buzz for advertising pot

America’s cannabis companies are racing to build national brands and market their wares to mainstream consumers. There’s just one problem: It’s hard to advertise your product when the federal government considers you a drug dealer.

Facebook, which like Google prohibits marijuana ads, has kicked some weed sellers off Instagram. CBS declined to air a commercial touting the benefits of medical marijuana during the Super Bowl. Much the way banks are unwilling to finance cannabis startups, television networks and online advertising marketplaces are understandably cautious because the Feds still classify marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug alongside heroin and ecstasy.

With a growing number of states legalizing weed for recreational and medical purposes, the U.S. market could surge eight-fold to $80 billion in sales by 2030, according to Cowen & Co. But it’s hard to see that happening unless companies can market their wares the way beer and liquor companies do. After decades of prohibition, many consumers need a push to give marijuana a try.

“The public has a stigmatized view of the product but legitimate business owners can’t reach them; it creates mistrust,” says Kyle Porter, who runs CMW Media, which does marketing and public relations for cannabis companies. “We’re really limited in how we can reach customers.”

For several years, marijuana companies have considered Instagram an ideal place to build their brands. In an effort to position weed as a mainstream product, they post pictures of buds and joints and show people hiking with vape pens or relaxing on the beach with cannabis edibles. But Instagram, a Facebook property, doesn’t let weed sellers advertise. In a statement, the company said that while it allows “marijuana advocacy content,” posts promoting the sale of cannabis are verboten. Dispensaries are prohibited from providing contact information, including phone numbers and street addresses, “regardless of state or country.”

Though many weed sellers — legal and black market — continue to operate accounts on Instagram, some complain that the social-media site shuts down their accounts with little warning or explanation. Binske, a Colorado company that sells vape pens, bud and cannabis-infused chocolates made with Peruvian cacao, spent the better part of two years building up its brand on Instagram. Then in September, just a few days after the company paid Snoop Dogg $30,000 to DJ a promotional event at a Las Vegas dispensary, the account disappeared.

Concerned about losing social-media momentum, Binske vice president of business development Alex Pasternack spent two weeks submitting documents to Instagram, trying to prove his company was legit. Then, without notice, the account came back — with its more than 12,000 followers intact.

“Everyone is just making up their own rules,” says Pasternack, who’s looking at other ways to get the word out. Binske now has licensing deals with companies that will use its recipes and branding in California, Nevada and Florida, partnerships the company hopes will help double revenue this year. This type of arrangement is key in an industry where companies are still not allowed to ship products from one state to another.

Caliva, one of California’s top-selling marijuana brands, says it has lost five or six Instagram accounts over the last couple of years. It sponsors education events at Bay Area yoga studios and senior centers, where representatives hold forth on the medical benefits of marijuana, how to fit edibles into an active lifestyle and other topics. Many companies rely on the “bud tenders” manning the counter at dispensaries around California. If asked for recommendations, they can steer customers toward certain brands.

“Our hands are really tied from a marketing perspective,” says Caliva’s branding chief Rosie Rothrock. “So we rely heavily on those relationships.”

MedMen, arguably the best-known name in the industry, is using a time-tested marketing trick from the brick-and-mortar playbook: opening stores. With a market value of roughly $1.5 billion, the company has spent heavily on licenses and real estate to operate stores at high-profile spots in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and even New York City, where it has a location not far from the Public Library on Fifth Avenue. New York state has a small medical program and is expected to approve recreational weed this year. Until then, the real estate is an “investment in a flagship,” says David Dancer, the company’s chief marketing officer.

While MedMen has also lost Instagram accounts, it’s finding that some marketing channels are opening up as attitudes about marijuana shift across the U.S. The company, which sells weed in distinctive red bags, has billboards in California and runs spots during the Howard Stern show on Sirius radio. It has also started placing print ads in Conde Nast publications.

Marijuana article strikes a nerve

The joint you smoked last night won’t give you schizophrenia. It also won’t make you assault your neighbor.

You might not know that after reading a recent New Yorker article that draws connection between marijuana use, schizophrenia and violent crimes in Washington.

In the article — “Is Marijuana as Safe as We Think?” — writer Malcolm Gladwell focused on a 2017 report by the National Academy of Medicine that examined the scientific evidence of the health effects and therapeutic purposes of cannabis and cannabinoids. Gladwell’s article also draws on a new book by former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson called “Tell Your Children: The Truth about Marijuana, Mental Health and Violence.”

Gladwell’s article and a subsequent New York Times op-ed by Berenson, was quickly rebuked by marijuana researchers and legalization advocates, who took issue with Gladwell’s selective use of data and Berenson’s linking marijuana use to schizophrenia.

Beatriz Carlini, a senior research scientist at the University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, said she was “disheartened” by the New Yorker article. Gladwell draws a connection between legal marijuana and an increase in crime, citing a 17 percent rise in aggravated assaults in Washington state from 2013 to 2017. The problem, Carlini said, is that there was a one-year decrease right before that, so after 2013 the numbers are just creeping back up to where they were before.

FBI data also estimate that, in every year between 2007 and 2017, Washington has had less violent crime per capita than the country as a whole. (Violent crimes are defined as aggravated assault, murder, non-negligent manslaughter, robbery and rape.) In 2017, for example, Washington had 304.5 violent-crime incidents per 100,000 people, compared with the national rate of 394 per 100,000 people.

The New York Times, in its data blog The Upshot, featured work by a University of Oregon economics professor whose model showed that Washington and Colorado had lower crime rates crime after recreational marijuana was legalized.

Carlini noted that other things were going on during that time — most notably, the privatization of liquor sales in 2012, which made alcohol easier to get in Washington.

“Alcohol has been linked to violence very clearly, although it is not the only factor,” Carlini said. “The same thing cannot be said about cannabis, except for this article.”

By highlighting certain parts of the National Academy of Medicine report and Berenson’s writings, Gladwell draws lines not only between marijuana and violent crime, but also between marijuana and schizophrenia.

Ziva Cooper, one of the authors of the National Academy of Medicine report, took issue with Berenson’s op-ed confusing correlation and causation.

Cooper, who is the research director at UCLA’s Cannabis Research Initiative, wrote in a series of Twitter posts that the Academy found an association between cannabis use and schizophrenia. Researchers also found an association between using cannabis and improved cognitive outcomes for people with psychotic disorders, which she points out wasn’t mentioned in Berenson’s piece.

“We did NOT conclude that cannabis causes schizophrenia,” she wrote.

“Since the report, we now know that genetic risk for schizophrenia predicts cannabis use, shedding some light on the potential direction of the association between cannabis use and schizophrenia.

“We also now know that under placebo-controlled conditions, (cannabidiol, or CBD) improves outcomes in patients with schizophrenia when given as an adjunct med, showing that cannabinoids (not necessarily cannabis) improve symptoms,” Cooper wrote.

Not everyone in the field of cannabis and cannabinoid research was put off by the articles. One of those was Denise Walker, whose position as a research associate professor at the School of Social Work at the University of Washington has her working in treatment and intervention for people with marijuana disorders.

Walker said that while Gladwell’s article wasn’t ideal, it does raise questions worth discussing, especially about the difficulty of studying marijuana.

“He was getting into some issues that need to be addressed and can’t be ignored,” Walker said.

The federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, the same category of drug as heroin. That makes marijuana hard for researchers to get their hands on; they can obtain it only from a federally sanctioned growing facility at the University of Mississippi. Walker said the government marijuana doesn’t reflect the high-potency kind used around the country.

Can CBD oil ease pain for pets?

Pot for pets? It may be the next step in the ever-evolving legitimization of medicinal marijuana, and a trio of South Florida companies are competing to become the Blue Apron of cannabis oils for pets.

Three companies formed in recent years are selling cannabidiol (CBD) products that owners and enthusiasts claim might be more effective than traditional veterinary medicines at treating chronic pain, inflammation and anxiety in dogs and cats.

But their growth prospects face a big hurdle: While early research suggests that the treatments show promise, the legality of the products are widely disputed, preventing pet owners from buying them at their favorite chain pet store or through the most popular e-commerce sites.

That hasn’t stopped Delray Beach-based Prana Pets, Plantation-based King Kanine and Fort Lauderdale-based Diamond CBD from joining a growing number of new companies around the globe that promote and distribute CBD oil products, including oral liquids, chews, balms and sprays for pets.

“CBD is a gold rush, and a lot of companies have just jumped on the bandwagon,” said Jeff Riman, founder and co-owner of King Kanine, which formed in 2015 and now has, he said, hundreds of thousands of customers and sales in the millions of dollars.

A few miles north, Prana Pets’ Brad Solomon and his partner, Brad Noonan, sell CBD oils alone and in combination with herbal products formulated to treat various ailments.

“It actually works,” Solomon said. The partners formed the company in 2016 and saw their sales of CBD oil increase to about 20,000 in 2018, Solomon said.

July 4 demand

Demand peaks around July 4, when loud and frequent fireworks displays turn millions of U.S. dogs into quivering, drooling, bulging-eyed basket cases, Solomon and Riman said.

Sellers are quick to point out that CBD oils don’t get pets high. They point to lab tests that show the products contain only trace amounts of THC, or tetrahydrocannabinols, the ingredient that gets marijuana users high, and say their CBD oils are extracted from marijuana’s low-THC-producing cousin, commonly known as industrial hemp.

In testimonials published on CBD distributors’ websites, customers report strong results after using CBD oils to treat their pets’ arthritis, hip dysplasia, ligament tears, epileptic seizures, cancer pain and other problems.

A review posted on King Kanine’s website by “Jeff C.” reported: “It’s been almost 2 months since I upped Rico’s dosage to medicinal level, and I’m amazed. His limping from hip arthritis has basically disappeared and his luxating patella issues have calmed down substantially. Rico (used) to be a slow walker, but now I have to pick up my step to keep up with him.”

Lisa Turk, president of the Pompano Beach-based nonprofit Labrador Retriever Rescue of Florida, said she has seen results after giving CBD oils to her own two dogs and three rescue dogs she fostered. One had severe separation anxiety and “took the place apart if I left him alone,” she said. “It was so bad my husband and I had to take turns leaving our home. It was the worst five months of our lives. We were prisoners to a foster dog.”

Used in combination with a strategy of getting the dog used to being alone for gradually increasing periods of time, the treatments calmed the dog to the point that it could be adopted and no longer has to be crated when left alone, Turk said.

Another dog had such severe thunderstorm fear, she had to take him into the shower stall and put a blanket over him to calm him down, she said. “I was worried the dog would have a heart attack,” she said. Now, a pre-storm CBD oil treatment keeps the dog calm, she said.

Not a miracle drug

Andrew Turkell, a Boca Raton-based holistic veterinarian, said he sees promise in CBD use in combination with other treatments, particularly to treat pain, cancer, and separation anxiety.

But he cautions it’s not a miracle drug. Of about 100 pet owners who have tried it at his recommendation over the past couple of years, about half told him they saw no effects, he said. “I’ve seen it work in some cases and not work in similar cases. Everything is different.”

Cannabidiol derives its healing and pain-relieving powers by interacting with receptors that regulate a wide range of physiological and neurological functions, advocates say.

How Gov. Inslee’s marijuana pardon plan measures up

LONGVIEW — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced Friday he will offer pardons to people convicted of minor marijuana possession between 1998 and 2012. But those offenders may be better off under other alternatives available to clear their names.

Someone pardoned under Inslee’s plan, for example, would still have to answer “yes” to the question “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” on housing and other forms, although they would be able to clarify they have been pardoned. A pardon does not expunge a crime from someone’s record.

By contrast, getting a conviction “vacated” wipes away a sentence and can set aside a guilty verdict.

But vacating a sentence comes with certain requirements that a pardon doesn’t, and a spokesman for the governor’s office said Inslee’s pardon plan can be easier to access.

“A pardon is going to have less impact than if one would have vacated a conviction,” Governor’s office Deputy General Counsel Tip Wonhoff said by email Tuesday.

However, pursuing Inslee’s offer of clemency is much easier, he said. Applicants fill out a simple web form without the assistance of a lawyer and with no need to go to a courthouse.

“We recognize the limits of a pardon, but it is better than nothing,” Wonhoff said.

By contrast, to get a conviction expunged requires filing paperwork with the court. In Cowlitz County, this means paying a $20 fee and waiting one or two weeks for a judge to consider the request, Cowlitz Court Administrator Dee Wirkkala said. She added that the process doesn’t require attending any hearings.

Roughly 3,500 people in Washington would be eligible for Inslee’s pardon, according to the Governor’s office. Officials here do not know how many offenders could be eligible for Inslee’s clemency program. However, assuming equal conviction rates across the state, about 51 people in Cowlitz County may be eligible.

Inslee’s initiative aims to ease some of the social and financial burdens imposed by a marijuana conviction, because cannabis was legalized more than six years ago. Reporting those convictions can make it more difficult to find housing, education or employment, his office said.

“This is a small step, but one that moves us in the direction of correcting injustices that disproportionately affected communities of color,” according to the governor’s website. “A successful pardon of a marijuana possession conviction can assist with barriers to housing, employment and education.”

Which option is better — pardon or vacation — depends on the conviction. A pardon can be granted even if one hasn’t paid off all his fines for a sentence or if he’s currently under a civil restraining order, unlike a motion to vacate.

However, “In my mind it’s much easier, if you qualify, to vacate your conviction,” Cowlitz County Prosecutor Ryan Jurvakainen said Tuesday. “(It’s) easier and more time efficient to go to the court of your conviction and ask for a vacation if you’ve paid all your dues and done everything necessary.”

Inslee’s pardons come with restrictions: The conviction must be for misdemeanor adult marijuana possession and must be the person’s only conviction (meaning those convicted of multiple possession charges would be ineligible). And it must have occurred between Jan. 1, 1998, and Dec. 5, 2012 (from when medicinal cannabis was legalized to when it was legalized recreationally).

However, that pardoned person “would still have to identify a conviction,” Jurvakainen said. “In order to say, ‘I wasn’t convicted of a crime,’ you still have to go to the court, which somebody can already do, regardless of the governor’s initiative.”

The marijuana pardon and vacating processes can both only be used once, for a single conviction, and will remove the conviction from public crime listings. Neither can be sought if the applicant has any pending criminal charges. And the requests are generally guaranteed as long as all conditions are met, although the decision is up to the governor or a judge.

While “there is no timeline” for marijuana convictions pardoned through the governor’s office, Wonhoff said he anticipates the requests being processed in a matter of “weeks versus months.”

The form to apply for a pardon request from Gov. Inslee can be found at: https://www.governor.wa.gov/marijuanajustice.

The form to apply to vacate a sentence in the Cowlitz district court can be found at: http://www.co.cowlitz.wa.us/index.aspx?NID=876.

The future of pot in Washington: State regulators talk marijuana ahead of 5-year anniversary of sales

SPOKANE — Nearly five years on, regulators of Washington state’s legal marijuana industry say there’s more work to be done on keeping pot out of the hands of children and assisting growers facing falling revenues due to a glut of product.

“We need to be well-positioned for an eventual national legalization, and what does that require,” said Jane Rushford, who chairs the three-member policy-making arm of the Liquor and Cannabis Board, in an interview Monday recorded for The Spokesman-Review’s Newsmakers podcast. “How do we get really smart about doing the things we can do now?”

Representatives of the state’s Liquor and Cannabis Board will meet at Spokane City Hall on Wednesday to consider changes to rules governing the labeling and visual appeal of cannabis products, just one of many regulatory issues that have cropped up in the now multibillion dollar industry. That includes candies, cookies and other sweets that board members had originally considered to remove from shelves beginning in April, but producers and processors are now being given an additional year to comply with new rules that prohibit the sale of marijuana edibles that “are brightly colored” or look similar to products marketed toward children.

The board was initially prompted to act after complaints from “members of the public, folks in the prevention community,” said Rick Garza, agency director of the Liquor and Cannabis Board. Both he and Rushford acknowledged that state laws prohibit minors from entering retail marijuana stores. But passing the rule would limit exposure to the drug in the home, Rushford said.

“Any product that has THC, the adult consumer should protect youth and children from that,” she said, referring to the psychoactive element in marijuana. “If you look at a cookie, how does a child distinguish a marijuana-infused cookie from a regular, normal cookie? It becomes that full spectrum, of how do we take all the steps we can?”

Growers have been banding together to counter local air pollution regulations that took effect last year, arguing that the continued plummeting price of marijuana sold wholesale to processors and retailers is limiting their ability to cover the additional regulatory cost of doing business. In late December, industry analysts at Cannabis Benchmarks, an analytic firm based in Connecticut, reported wholesale prices had continued to tumble throughout 2018, raising “the question of where the market’s bottom might lie.”

Garza said the growing pains the industry is going through can be linked back to the same phenomenon that occurred in the 1970s when Washington’s wineries were beholden to distributors rather than being able to sell their product directly. State laws prohibit Washington’s marijuana producers from also holding a retail license in a process known as “vertical integration,” a holdover from state laws governing liquor production and sale after alcohol sales were banned in the United States in the early 20th century.

“That has created, probably if there was a fault in that initiative, was not allowing for the vertical integration,” Garza said.

Other states that have legalized the sale of marijuana, notably Colorado, have allowed marijuana producers and processors to also obtain retail licenses.

Another area where Washington differs from other states permitting cannabis sales is in the testing of flower for pesticides. At least one private retailer in Seattle has begun testing products on their shelves for prohibited substances, in the absence of a state law or rule mandating such tests. Washington-grown pot is tested for bacteria and other potentially contaminating substances.

Garza said the board would consider mandatory pesticide testing soon. The hold-up has been the absence of data to indicate what levels of certain substances are safe, as the drug’s classification as illegal under federal law has limited research opportunities.

“When you take action against a licensee for pesticide use, remember that you’re going to have to go to court, or you’re going to have to go before a judge, and you’re going to have to prove that these action levels that you’ve placed into rule are acceptable,” he said. “And how are you going to do that?”

The Liquor and Cannabis Board will hold its monthly meeting beginning at 10 a.m. Wednesday in the lower level of Spokane City Hall, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd. The public will be allowed to speak during an open forum period at the end of the meeting, as well as weigh in on proposed changes to the state’s laws on vaping.

The entirety of the conversation can be heard at spokesman.com/podcasts.

Listen to “Washington State Liquor Cannabis Board Director Rick Garza and Chair Jane Rushford” on Spreaker.