Illustration by James the Stanton

Illustration by James the Stanton

Trouble in Tacoma

A cannabis producer has been shut down for “numerous and substantial violations.”

In the first move of its kind for our state, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) issued an emergency license suspension against a cannabis licensee. Tacoma’s Refined Cannabinoids was served with the suspension last Friday. The LCB has suspended licenses at liquor-oriented businesses, but it hadn’t yet come after a cannabis-oriented licensee for bad behavior.

Prompted by a complaint, the LCB rolled into Refined Cannabinoids and discovered, in their words, “numerous and substantial violations,” including but not limited to a boatload of plants, clones, and finished product all missing Washington state’s mandatory traceability tags.

Those traceability tags and labels have been a point of contention for Washington cannabis companies. The state requires extensive (and somewhat confusing) documentation practices from cannabis businesses in an attempt to comply with the federal government’s ever-changing stance on cannabis. All cannabis material must be explicitly recorded “from seed to sale,” with paperwork being filed for every phase of a plant’s existence, every time the plant material changes hands, and every varying form of production. Once it’s packaged for consumers, a whole new label is created. Last year, the state changed the company they use for labeling and tracking, and things have not gone smoothly since, including a huge snafu in which tags and labels wouldn’t print or printed incorrectly. While folks scrambled to fix the system, the state required industry members to keep handwritten records if the system wasn’t working correctly, resulting in some producers, processors, and retailers generating thousands of pages of handwritten records.

Nevertheless, Refined Cannabis and its license holder Boris Kogon didn’t have just a couple of untagged plants that may have gotten lost in the shuffle. LCB reported that officers found and snatched up “2,569 marijuana plants, 1,216 marijuana plant clones, 375.8 pounds of frozen marijuana flower stored in 11 freezer chests, 3,423 half-gram marijuana cigarettes, and 97.5 pounds of bulk marijuana flower,” all missing the requisite tagging and labeling. Umm… that’s a fair amount of weed. Moreover, LCB claims they found evidence that “the licensee had been diverting product from the licensed business,” which—shocker—the LCB frowns on. “Traceability is a core component of Washington’s system and essential for licensee compliance,” said Justin Nordhorn, LCB chief of enforcement. “If our licensees fail to track their product, they put their license in jeopardy.” You know the state wants its weed taxes—harrumph—I mean, you know children are at risk and that dangerous marijuana must be tracked at all times.

The LCB ended up taking all the cannabis on the premises. Unfortunately, all the fresh cannabis material seized has been destroyed, and all the dried material is scheduled to be destroyed once the case is settled.

The LCB issued this rare emergency license revocation due to the magnitude and the sheer number of violations, as well as a concern that Refined Cannabinoids would continue to divert product. It’s the second license LCB has revoked this year (the first was Studio Seven, which closed after numerous reports of sexual assaults and other sketchy behavior went unresolved). The LCB revoked only one license in 2017: Frankie’s Bar and Grill in Olympia.

The license suspension is temporary and will be in effect for up to 180 days. However, the LCB will be using those six months to try to amass enough evidence of wrongdoing and violations to revoke Refined Cannabinoids’ license permanently.

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