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Are marijuana-infused medibles -- like those sold from the Magical Butter food truck -- legal, or aren't they? [Upstart Business Journal]
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Are marijuana-infused medibles — like those sold from the Magical Butter food truck — legal, or aren’t they?
[Upstart Business Journal]

It’s been almost two years since the voters of Washington state approved limited marijuana legalization measure Initiative 502. But apparently those two years weren’t long enough for Washington state bureaucrats to figure out exactly what constitutes a cannabis-infused edible product — or even if such products are legal.

Two issues, both of which were supposed to have been settled long ago, have come to the fore:

• Will sales of marijuana-infused edible products be allowed?

• Will infused food items be considered as marijuana, i.e., will 16 ounces of infused brownies be treated legally as a pound of marijuana?

You’d think such questions would have been answered already, in the protracted two-year run-up to implementation of I-502. Aren’t these state agencies — the Department of Health and the Liquor Control Board — even talking to each other about implementing the new law?

These uncertainties came to light this week after Seattle-based Magical Butter planned to offer infused medibles from their well-known food truck at an event in Snohomish County. As part of laying the groundwork for that, the company requested and got a meeting with the county health department, making sure all their i’s were dotted and t’s were crossed beforehand.

“We got a nasty phone call from Pat Slack [commander of the Snohomish Regional Drug and Gang Task Force], and he said “What are you doing in my county?” Magical Operations Manager (MOM) Lila York of Magical Butter told Toke Signals Friday afternoon.

“We were asked to stop selling cannabis-infused products,” York told us. “At that point, we decided to voluntarily pull out of the event.”

According to York, Officer Slack — a vocal opponent of marijuana who has whined in The Wall Street Journal about legalization reducing his drug task force’s budget — threatened to charge anyone in possession of medibles by charging them with marijuana possession for the full weight of the medible.

“He says anything we sell will be pot weight,” Lila told me. “A quarter-pound burger will be considered a quarter pound of ‘dope,’ is the way he put it.”

After changing their plans, and deciding instead to operate the infused-medibles food truck at another event — this one in the community of Black Diamond — Magical Butter got yet another law enforcement call, this time from the drug task force in Pierce County.

Not On The Same Page

It turns out the Washington Department of Health isn’t on the same page as the Washington Liquor Control Board when it comes to marijuana-infused foods.

According to rules adopted by the Liquor Control Board last year, up to 16 ounces of cannabis-infused food, and up to 72 ounces of infused liquids, are permissible under I-502. They haven’t yet defined how much cannabis/hash oil and how much liquid are required to call it an “infused liquid,” so conceivably nearly pure hash oil, for instance, could be sold with an inert carrier liquid added to satisfy the letter of the law and make it “infused.”

But the DOH apparently doesn’t see it that way.

“As far as the Department of Health is concerned, any kind of medible is going to be an illegal, ‘adulterated’ product,” York told me. “This affects everyone.”

Confusingly enough, the Liquor Control Board this week unveiled a revised set of new “emergency rules” concerning marijuana infused edibles. The rules, the LCB said, were necessary “to provide additional clarity to the marijuana rules regarding marijuana-infused products, specifically products that are appealing to children.”

The rules ban, for instance, the use of cartoon characters on the packaging, and require that the warning “This product contains marijuana” be included.

The Washington State Department of Health is engaged in an active campaign to prevent marijuana use.
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The Washington State Department of Health is engaged in an active campaign to prevent marijuana use.

But on the same day the LCB is releasing rules for marijuana foods, the Department of Health — which is actively involved in a campaign against marijuana use — is saying such foods are “adulterated” and unacceptable, York told us.

“They are disagreeing with the Liquor Control Board and saying that anything infused with cannabis is adulterated, as in poison,” she said. “The Liquor Control Board is like, ‘No, medibles are OK,’ but we’re not sure what they’re going to come up with.”

According to Lila, Magical Butter has requested to meet with the health boards of Snohomish and Pierce counties.

“They asked to meet with us in order to go forward with policy in the next three weeks,” York said. “The Department of Health started it, but then it went to the Liquor Control Board and then it went to drug task forces. We’re not sure who is going to be there at the meeting, at this point, but we are trying to get as many of the key players together as possible in one spot.”

According to Lila, no date for the meeting is yet established, “but they are saying within the next three weeks, because they have to have it done by a certain date.”

“We actually voluntarily pulled out of this,” York said. “We were never told ‘don’t you dare do this.’ Even though we are within the bounds of legality in Washington state to do this, we don’t want to ruffle feathers.”

“We need to get a clear ruling from the Department of Health and the Liquor Control Board,” York said. “The LCB and the Department of Health are going to have to figure this out; they can’t have it both ways.”

I want to meet with everyone involved, and want them to know what we’re doin

What Do You Mean, ‘Adulterant’?

Steve Sarich, Cannabis Action Coalition: "Quote" [Associated Press]
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Steve Sarich, Cannabis Action Coalition:
“This looks like there are some potentially serious conflicts”
[Associated Press]

According to activist Steve Sarich of the Seattle-based Cannabis Action Coalition, who said he has reviewed the applicable sections of the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic law (including Sections 402, 348 and 342), there is nothing specific about cannabis in Section 402.

“I’m unclear about the specific issues in the law that qualify the addition of cannabis as ‘adulterated,'” Sarich said.

“I’m aware that the Liquor Control Board has authorized the sale of food containing cannabis,” Sarich said. “Does this conflict with ‘adulterization’ [the term used by the Washington Department of Health] in Chapter 246-215 of the Washington Administrative Code (WAC)? If not, is there an exception to the WAC that allows the sale of ‘adultered’ food?”

Sarich also has a question in to the Department of Health on whether there’s anything specific in the WAC, or any other statue, that distinguishes between “adultered” food that’s cooked onsite — like on the Magical Butter food truck — and pre-packaged food.

“This looks like there are some potentially serious conflicts and I’d like to make sure that I give my clients authoritative information, preferably in writing, from the appropriate agencies involved,” Sarich wrote to the DOH.

Sarich’s Thursday letter to the DOH hadn’t been answered by mid-afternoon on Friday, June 27.

 

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