TIME Drugs

Everything You Need to Know About Buying Legal Weed in Washington State

Washington Legal Marijuana Pot Weed
Amber McGowan, right, and Krystal Klacsan, left, work in the cash register area at the recreational marijuana store Cannabis City in Seattle on July 7, 2014. Ted S. Warren—AP

America's second recreational weed market is open for business. Here's how it works

The first legal, recreational marijuana stores will open for business in Washington state Tuesday, making it the second state in the nation to allow pot to be bought and consumed more or less like alcohol. As Washington joins Colorado on America’s weed frontier, here’s what you need to know about the latest legal market:

So, who is allowed to buy pot?

As with alcohol, only those 21 and older can purchase recreational weed. Out of state residents are allowed to purchase pot, but it must be consumed in Washington. Marijuana remains illegal in neighboring states. And plan on paying with cash. While some legal establishments may be able to take debit cards, none can accept credit cards because of federal banking regulations.

Can you buy it at the gas station, like a pack of cigarettes?

No. Consumers can only buy pot in retail shops licensed by the state. Internet sales and delivery services are not allowed under the current rules. (Nor are “marijuana food trucks,” in case you were wondering.) And not every part of the state is on board: dozens of municipalities have banned or put moratoriums on pot sales.

When, exactly, are shops going to open?

The Washington State Liquor Control Board, the body tasked with implementing the nuts and bolts of the new marijuana market, issued licenses to 24 retail shops on July 7. Shops are allowed to open 24 hours after the owners finish the licensing process, so July 8 is the earliest possible day. Sales are generally allowed to take place between 8 a.m. and midnight.

And how do you know which shops are licensed to sell weed?

You can find information about the first batch of stores, such as the Happy Crop Shoppe and the Bud Hut, here. Brian Smith, the Liquor Board’s director of communications, says the Board has tried to ensure a geographic range for the first stores, while also making sure to serve areas with the densest populations, like the Puget Sound corridor. But it’s still a work in progress. Seattle, the state’s largest city, has only one shop approved for opening day.

Aren’t there supposed to be shortages?

Likely so. As in Colorado, people will be drawn out by the historic nature of the occasion, and 24 retail shops is a fraction of the more than 334 the state plans to eventually license. Owners of those few open establishments might decide to ration their product, setting lower-than-normal limits on how much each person can buy, or raise prices while supply is low and demand is high.

So how much will the legal weed cost?

Store owners likely to be licensed have said that they’re aiming to sell their weed for about $12 per gram, but those prices may range up to $25 per gram.

But when the supply is full, are there any limits on how much you can buy?

The law caps the amount you can purchase and possess at any one time at one ounce (28 grams).

What about pot brownies and other edibles?

THC-infused treats won’t legally be available for awhile. The Board has said that such products must be tested and approved, and so far none have made the grade. Colorado has had some problems with kids eating what look like normal brownies or candies and ending up dangerously sedated, which officials are working to prevent through stricter rules.

Can you light up anywhere?

Nope. It’s illegal to smoke marijuana in public places — or even in legal marijuana shops. Those caught consuming in public will not be arrested, but can be given a $27 ticket (akin to a parking violation). Driving while high is also illegal.

So what about out-of-state shoppers who don’t have private residences?

Only 25% of hotel rooms in the state are allowed to be designated as smoking rooms. Whether those allow marijuana smoking appears to be up to the individual hotel owners, so call beforehand if you’re a tourist looking for a place to toke. According to the Washington Lodging Association, “There is no current protocol within the hospitality industry as to smoking medical or recreational marijuana inside hotels.”

When will more shops be open?

The Board will keep churning through the more than 2,000 applications they have left to vet for aspiring growers, processors and retail shops. Smith says there’s no set date when 334 shops are supposed to be open but emphasizes that a dedicated team will be working as fast as they can to get the market up and running. “It’s going to be a bumpy start,” says Randy Simmons, the Board’s deputy director. “There’s no question about that.” The loose estimate from state officials is to have around 100 licensed stores open by year’s end.

With reporting by Alex Altman

TIME States

Washington State Braces for Sales of Recreational Pot

Medicinal Marijuana Supplier Caring for Plants
Cavan Images / Adam Weiss

Amid concerns of weed shortages

Recreational pot is poised to go on sale this week in Washington nearly two years after the state voted to legalize the marijuana trade, but uncertainty and concerns of a weed shortage already abound.

Sale of the drug became legal Monday morning and licensed retailers buying their supplies from licensed growers will be able to sell their product by Tuesday.

Washington and Colorado voted to legalize the pot trade in Nov. 2012, becoming the first states to do so. But while Colorado, which had a robust existing medical marijuana market, has overseen a legal recreational market since the start of the year, Washington is only just giving it a shot.

Only about 20 retailers are expected to receive their licenses this week, and many growers are still awaiting their own licenses. The result: a potential shortage, which will lead to hiked prices, long lines, or limits on the size of purchases.

There are still thousands of growers and retailers awaiting a license, and according to Reuters only a small portion of the growers’ marijuana has gone through necessary testing, with many harvests unlikely to be ready in time for this week’s sales.


New Orleans Mayor: Essence Festival ‘Huge Economic Engine’ for the Big Easy

2014 Essence Music Festival - Seminars - Day 2
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu onstage at the 2014 Essence Music Festival on July 4, 2014 in New Orleans. Paras Griffin—Getty Images

The three-day event generated around $241 million in 2013

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said Friday the Essence Music Festival “may be the most important event the people of this city are involved in.”

“What started off as a small music festival,” Landrieu told TIME, “has now turned into a huge economic engine for this city over a weekend that otherwise wouldn’t have filled up the city.”

Over the past 20 years, big names from Beyoncé to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have drawn massive crowds to the “party with a purpose,” which has become the largest African American music festival in the U.S. Essence is owned by TIME parent company Time Inc.

At a press conference on Friday, Landrieu said the financial impact of the 400,000 people expected to pass through New Orleans over the weekend is “in some instances, incalculable.” Last year, the event brought over a half-million people to the city, generating about $200 million during a weekend that was at one time “dead,” says National Urban League president Marc Morial, who was the city’s mayor when the event first came to town.

“Essence not only gave us something over the Fourth of July weekend, but it gave us something every year,” Morial says. “There’s a lot of local businesses that take advantage of the opportunity to enhance their sales by way of Essence.”

After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, Essence moved the festival to Houston, Texas. The festival’s absence meant the city was left without the people and the money it typically brings in.

“When Essence wasn’t here there was nobody working,” says Murphy Christina, the general manager of Mulate’s Restaurant, a family-owned Cajun restaurant near the festival’s headquarters. The town was so empty that Fourth of July weekend that Christina closed the restaurant. But today, it’s open for business — and business is booming.

“Today, everybody is working,” Christina says. “We’ve got a full house three days in a row.”

Joe Blancheck, general manager of the Marriott hotel across the street from where the event is held, also said the event helps his business.

“All of our hotels sell out pretty far in advance,” Blancheck says. “We have a lot of repeat customers every year.”

TIME States

For $400,000 You Can Be a Town’s Owner, and its Bartender

A road marker highlights Swett, S.D.'s small borders on June 26, 2014.
A road marker highlights Swett, S.D.'s small borders on June 26, 2014. Eric Ginnard—AP

The entire town of Swett, South Dakota is up for sale, and there's a bar included

Ever wished your local bar was a little less crowded? Well wish no more. For a mere $400,000 you can become the proud owner of a bar, and the one-man town it’s based in, the Associated Press reports.

Lance Benson, a wealthy businessman, has put the town of Swett, S.D. up for sale. Benson bought the hamlet in 1998, lost it in a divorce and reclaimed it in 2012. Now he’s looking for a buyer so he can spend more time on his business.

The new owner of Swett will inherit a workshop, three trailers, Benson’s house, and, of course, the bar. Though the town is uninhabited, solitary drinkers need not make an offer. The Swett Tavern is the bar of choice for local cowboys and farmers within a 10-mile radius.

Gerry Runnels, a patron of the bar commented: “This place is pretty much where the highway ends and the Wild West begins.”

Benson put the town on the market last week, though a new proprietor is yet to be found. Its current owner isn’t too bothered though. Benson said if Swett doesn’t sell in a year, he’ll keep it.


TIME States

Mummy Found in Tucson Manhole Likely Electrocuted

An ID was found on the man but authorities are waiting on DNA to verify who he is

The mummified corpse of a man found in a Tucson, Arizona, manhole last month likely died of electrocution, authorities said Tuesday.

The Pima County medical examiner’s office said the dead man was found in an underground, high-voltage utility vault holding bolt cutters, with cut copper wires nearby. His body was discovered by Tucson Electric Power crews May 19, between one and two years after his death, the Associated Press reports.

Identification for a 51-year-old man was found with the remains, but authorities are awaiting results of a DNA test to confirm the identity of the deceased.




TIME States

Massachusetts Set for Highest Minimum Wage in U.S.

Massachusetts is not the only one looking to hike their minimum wages though.

Massachusetts could set a record: The state plans to adopt an $11 minimum wage by 2017. That would give Massachusetts the single highest minimum wage of any state in the country—but not by much. The bill is currently before Gov. Deval Patrick.

A handful of states are looking to hike their minimum wages over the next couple of years. Michigan wants to raise its minimum wage to $9.15 by 2018, while Vermont and Maryland want to raise theirs to $10.50 by then.

MORE: History of the Minimum Wage

TIME Drugs

New York Poised for Legal Medical Marijuana

Will be 23rd state

New York was on the cusp of becoming the latest state to legalize marijuana for medical purposes Friday.

The state Senate passed a bill that would limit consumption to edibles, pills, and oils—prohibiting the smoking or sale of actual marijuana plants. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign the bill, which passed the Senate 49 to 10 after state leaders announced a legislative compromise Thursday.

“This legislation strikes the right balance,” Cuomo said in statement Thursday when the compromise was first reached. “Medical marijuana has the capacity to do a lot of good for a lot of people who are in pain and suffering, and are in desperate need of a treatment that will provide some relief. At the same time, medical marijuana is a difficult issue because there are risks to public health and safety that have to be averted. I believe this bill is the right balance, and I commend the members of the Legislature who worked so hard on this measure.”

New York will be the 23rd state to legalize medical marijuana, according to the New York Daily News.

The state Department of Health will be charged with the regulation and licensing of medical marijuana manufacturers and distributors. The bill will place a seven-cent tax on marijuana sales.

MORE: Inside a Christian Pot Shop

TIME States

Wisconsin Governor Dismisses Reports of ‘Criminal Scheme’

Scott Walker
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at the Republican party of Wisconsin State Convention in Milwaukee on May 3, 2014. Jeffrey Phelps—AP

“No charges—case over”

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Friday dismissed reports of his involvement in a “criminal scheme” as a partisan prosecutorial witch hunt, saying a secret probe of his fundraising activities has already been “resolved.”

“No charges—case over,” Walker said on Fox News. Walker, a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, was responding to documents unsealed Thursday by a federal judge that allege Walker was involved in a “criminal scheme” to coordinate fundraising activities with outside conservative groups during a recall election he faced. No charges have been filed and Walker hasn’t been formally been accused of any wrongdoing.

On Friday, Walker said he was going to have to “counter” partisan attacks “all over again,” and that he’d rely on the grassroots support that helped Wisconsin Republicans hold onto the state Senate in recall elections in 2011 and 2012 after supporting legislation that ended collective bargaining for public employees.

“This is a prime example of what happens when you take on the big government special interests,” Walker said. “They’re looking for ways to come at us. They’ll continue to do it. They did it two years ago in the recall election, they’re going to do it again now. We’ve got another tough election this fall and so they’re going to come at it with just about everything out there and the media—at least many in the media—are willing accomplices to this. But the facts of the case are pretty clear.”

TIME States

‘Criminal Scheme’ Will Haunt Scott Walker

The campaign finance rules are complicated, the political reality isn't

Correction appended, June 20

There’s one thing not under dispute in the case of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who now lies in the political equivalent of critical condition after disclosure of his alleged involvement in a “criminal scheme” to evade campaign finance laws: On May 4, 2011, Walker wrote an email to Karl Rove, the former White House aide and Republican strategist.

In that email, Walker boasted about the abilities of one of his political consultants, R.J. Johnson. “R.J. helps keep in place a team that is wildly successful in Wisconsin. We are running 9 recall elections and it will be like 9 congressional markets in every market in the state,” Walker wrote.

The email matters because at the time Johnson was wearing a number of hats: He was a Walker advisor and a consultant to Walker’s own campaign, but he was also involved, sometimes with his wife, in other outside groups, like the Wisconsin Club For Growth and Citizens for a Strong America, which were supporting Walker. Another email obtained by prosecutors, which had been sent to Walker, described Johnson as having “coordinated spending through 12 different groups.”

From a distance, this looks bad. America’s campaign finance system is built upon a shaky assumption that there are two types of political spending: Spending controlled by candidates, which is heavily regulated, and spending that candidates do not control, which is far less regulated. In principle, the two pots of money must be kept separate, but in practice, those distinctions break down. Candidates intentionally send signals to direct the spending of outside groups, and donors make clear to candidates all they have given to help get them elected through third parties.

In the Walker case, there is an even further complicating factor: the meaning of what constitutes “political purposes” when it comes to coordination is contested. State prosecutors, according to their filings, have no doubt. They claim to have “established a concerted effort to circumvent Wisconsin’s campaign finance contribution prohibitions, limitations and disclosure requirements.” Under a state law allowing secret investigations, a state judge, who has since recused herself, issued subpoenas allowing the prosecutors to move forward with the case.

One federal judge, Ruldolph Randa, has since ruled that the coordination the prosecutors uncovered was not illegal since the outside groups only engaged in so-called issue advocacy—they did not expressly advocate Walker’s victory or defeat even though they clearly supported his efforts. Another state judge, Gregory Peterson, has made a similar ruling. But Peterson’s ruling is on appeal, leaving the law in doubt, and Randa’s ruling is now before a federal appeals court.

The same can be said for Walker, who will face reelection this fall, and is positioning himself for a 2016 presidential campaign. Elections, after all, rarely hinge on legal technicalities. They are about voter impressions, and “criminal scheme” is quite a phrase to overcome in a contested primary. Even if he skates criminal charges, he will now face the enormous task of explaining the byzantine technicalities of campaign finance law to the American public, which is predisposed, polls suggest, to believe that most candidates at all levels are bought and paid for by donors.

“This is nothing more than a partisan investigation with no basis in state law,” Walker said in a statement Thursday. “It’s time for the prosecutors to acknowledge both judge’s orders to end this investigation.”

The fate of the credibility of the nation’s campaign finance system is a different question altogether. The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that there is virtually no risk of corrupting lawmakers as long as money is delivered to outside groups supporting the lawmakers, and not the lawmakers themselves. As the emails make clear, Walker was quite proud and deeply involved in monitoring the money being spent on his behalf by outside groups. The money helped his cause, and was directed by a close aide. Will Americans choose to believe that politicians in his position cannot be influenced by the donors who paid the bills?

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly described the nature of a federal appeals court ruling on a lawsuit seeking to block a state investigation into Scott Walker’s fundraising. It also incorrectly described the decisions by courts that have ruled on the issue of whether it is illegal for a candidate to coordinate with outside groups engaged only in issue advocacy.

TIME States

Prosecutors Say Wisconsin Governor at Center of ‘Criminal’ Fundraising Scheme

Wisconsin Republican Convention
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at the Republican party of Wisconsin State Convention on May 3, 2014, in Milwaukee. Jeffrey Phelps—AP

Legal setback for 2016 presidential hopeful

Prosecutors say Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is at the center of a “criminal scheme” to coordinate fundraising with conservative groups across the country, according to documents revealed on Thursday.

The documents were unsealed Thursday by order of a federal judge as part of a lawsuit that sought to block a secret state investigation, known as a “John Doe probe,” into the 2012 gubernatorial recall elections, which the incumbent Walker won. In the filing, the prosecutors say Walker, his chief of staff Keith Gilkes and another top adviser illegally coordinated with national conservative groups and national figures including GOP strategist Karl Rove. Rove’s assistant said he was traveling Thursday and couldn’t comment.

Walker, a potential Republican candidate in the 2016 presidential elections, has not been charged with a crime. In a statement, Walker decried the investigation as “partisan… with no basis in state law.”

“The accusation of any wrongdoing written in the complaint by the office of a partisan Democrat District Attorney by me or by my campaign is categorically false. In fact two judges, in both state and federal courts, have ruled that no laws were broken,
” he said.

The secretive investigation began in 2012 ahead of the gubernatorial recall election, when prosecutors began looking into whether independent conservative groups—which have no limit on their fundraising—illegally coordinated with campaigns for Walker and other state candidates, whose fundraising is much more regulated. But in May, a federal judge put the probe on hold, ruling that it was a breach of free-speech rights. That judge, U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa, also said in his ruling that that the type of coordination in question is not illegal if it focuses just on advocacy, and not on getting the candidates elected. A separate Wisconsin judge overseeing the probe had previously made a similar judgment.

The prosecutors are appealing Randa’s decision to halt the investigation.

But the controversy has the potential to disrupt Walker’s political ambitions, both in 2016 and in the fall. Walker, who is in the final months of his first term as governor, faces a close race for reelection. Polls show Walker and Democrat Mary Burke, a former Wisconsin state commerce secretary, locked in a tight race.

“Wisconsin has always been a clean-government state and allegations like this really resonate with voters,” said Scott Becher, a Wisconsin Republican political consultant turned public relations advisor.

Becher said that if Walker hopes to run in 2016, “voters of the state need to reelect him and he needs to have a good credible answer to what happened here.”

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