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White Center Blog » Archive » What You Might Not Know About The Cannabis Trade And How It’s Regulated, @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council May Meeting

By Tracy Records
White Center Now Editor

The cannabis trade and how it is regulated was the focus of tonight’s May meeting of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council. Here is what happened :

STATE LIQUOR AND CANNABIS BOARD: Lt. EP Hackenberg manages this region. He noted that there were seven stores in the White Center/North Highline area.

It showed the revenues and taxes paid by those seven stores alone — public information under the terms of the measure that legalized cannabis — $5.5 million in taxes last year alone:

There were two processing facilities during the year – West Coast Premium Products and Kush Mountain Gardens – but Lt. Hackenberg wasn’t sure if they were still in operation. However, their “tax footprint” is/was negligible.

A big task for his agency, compliance checks:

So far this year they’re 86% compliant, but historically it’s more like 95%. He also acknowledged recent thefts targeting cannabis retailers — including ones that resulted in three deaths, one budtender, two thieves — and said they were offering safety tips to stores. (This advice is available on the LCB website.) He clarified that his agency is not a primary law enforcement agency, so it does not respond to or investigate crimes like these – local law enforcement does. Then he added that there’s one thing his agency has in common with local law enforcement: They hire.

In Q&A, NHUAC Liz Giba wondered if security measures would be codified/regulated, or just left to stores. For one, they’re required to have cameras, Lt. Hackenberg said, but he’s seen no evidence that anything else will be required. “We want to give them options on how they can be more confident in running their business.” NHUAC Barbara Dobkin asked if he had any data on store robberies and other crimes in this area. He had no specific NH ventilation. And there have been different groups/individuals of burglars – there is no single group responsible for everything.

Next was the officer Eric Thomas of the LCB. He was there to talk about the education/law enforcement division. He showed the numbers for alcohol and cannabis companies – with the former far outnumbering the latter:

The White Center area falls under the purview of one of 15 cannabis enforcement officers statewide — he’s the one right now, responsible for 285 licensed locations — and one of 48 retail liquor enforcement officers, which has 127 approved locations to keep tabs on. A discussion with him clarified that there are five operating marijuana stores and one processor in the White Center/Top Hat area. WALCB also has “compliance consultants”, two of whom work in King County. Here’s what officers like him do:

He said they check 7 locations a month, and location often helps determine priority – a store not far from a school, for example, would be a high priority. If he receives a complaint about a company, he has 60 days to investigate. He also performs “final checks” during regular night shifts each month. The division also devotes many hours to education. “We place great importance on education in law enforcement.”

Want to file a complaint? You can do it online. You can do this anonymously but as an officer, he prefers to be able to speak with the complainant, to get more details. If he knows who the complainant is, he can go around and explain how the investigation went.

In Q/A, Agent Thomas was asked about plans to ban menthol cigarettes. He said he didn’t expect that to be a problem — they managed to handle the flavored vape ban, and it’s likely to be similar. Next question: Suppose you receive a complaint about a bar serving minors. How do you investigate? This will often lead to a compliance check, or even monitoring, if he has information about a specific employee and a specific time of day. He investigated this kind of complaint at North Highline in 2020 and it generated a violation, which can result in a $500 fine or multi-day license suspension. He said the company failed several compliance checks and could have lost its license; instead, they sold the business, and now there’s a new licensee in the same location who passed their checks.

What about hookah lounges? asked the NHUAC Pat Price. One that has been the site of some trouble in the area is on their radar, Officer Thomas said. They “continue to work” there, he said. He also noted the Taradise Café situation, in which “many agencies” were involved, the county found a violation that shut it down, and it all happened before the untimely death of its owner; now the building is in different hands. He’s also been asked about White Center’s unlicensed cannabis stores in the past; The WALCB participated. Two different owners. two raids, the second was led by King County, he said. They got a tobacco license, applied for a liquor license, but it didn’t work out when an investigation revealed links to the previous owner. Overall, Thomas said, they work pretty stealthily – no uniforms, no marked cars, “you don’t see us around…often customers, employees don’t even know we’re there to observe the operations”.

Overall, “we want successful retail operations in our community,” Thomas emphasized.

Do they get a lot of complaints? They are starting to ramp up, but less than a dozen so far this year. He added later in the meeting that he had just done compliance checks and six out of seven went well.

King County Sheriff’s Deputy Bill Kennamera regular guest, was unable to attend the meeting, but NHUAC also heard of Marissa Jaureguiwho coordinates the local Drug-Free Youth Coalition. She spoke about youth trends and said her organization has worked with Cascade Middle School and Evergreen High School, and has worked in the White Center area for a decade.

Seeing family and/or friends using substances influences young people’s choices, she noted. She also showed results from a survey showing that substance use has increased among young people in the area over the past year:

Why do they use? Many reasons:

Understanding is key when it comes to having conversations about this with young people. She also talked about the physical facts of addiction and addiction. Cannabis is increasingly used among young people…. (because of) a misperception that you cannot become addicted. Smoking, vaping and dabbing are the most common ways young people use cannabis. It affects memory, learning, sports performance, even a risk of psychosis and schizophrenia with more intensive use. Regarding alcohol, memory and learning are affected, and in this case, the younger you start drinking, the more likely you are to become dependent. And then there’s nicotine – something young people start using without knowing much about it, and then they become involuntarily addicted. It is often used in vaping – along with many other dangerous and mysterious chemicals.

She also mentioned fentanyl since there was a recent discovery of cannabis associated with it – you could ingest it and not know it, but “the risk of overdose is high”. It also appears in pills.

When does the coalition meet? he was asked. There’s a big event next Tuesday, online:

ADVERTISEMENT: Price noted that the white center library is open again and is trying to replenish attendance, and the White Center Library Guild is looking for new members (watch soon for more). The guild will have its sidewalk sale at the library on July 15th and 17th. … Meanwhile, on July 16, the Kiwanis White Center will host his pancake breakfast at the WC eagles HQ, 8am-12pm… Giba also reminded everyone that the King County Council continue to work on the North Highline sub-area plan (among other planning matters) and encourage attendance at the May 24 and June 28 meetings online at 9:30 a.m.

NEXT NHUAC MEETING: 7 p.m. on June 2, online, before the summer break.

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