Planned hunt for pot Easter eggs runs into major buzzkill

MONROE — A hazy area of the law led to the cancellation of a hunt for Easter eggs full of marijuana.

It all started when employees of Green Valley Collective, a medical marijuana dispensary on Highway 203 in unincorporated Snohomish County, publicized the Saturday event on Facebook and Northwest Leaf, a magazine that covers the marijuana industry.

“We were just going to have a party,” said owner Lynn Boyd, 55. “I didn’t give it enough thought.”

But Snohomish Regional Drug and Gang Task Force Commander Pat Slack did. He called the dispensary earlier this week, wondering if the planned festivities were legal.

As a law enforcement officer, Slack said, even he’s unclear about the rules. That makes for a challenge in enforcing regulations for medical marijuana and the state’s new recreational pot law.

“In my eyes, if you went to that event and you picked up an egg with marijuana in it that wasn’t from a state-licensed store, you’re committing a crime,” Slack said.

After the conversation, and not wanting any trouble, Boyd canceled the event.

“It wasn’t a bake fest or (to) see how high we can get,” Boyd said. “It was just in fun.”

The festivities were to include a hunt for Easter eggs full of free marijuana and concentrates, including one called “nitro honey oil.” The plan was to put samples of the products, which are intended to be used as medicine, inside the eggs.

Employees also planned to have a “dab bar” where people could inhale the smoke of various marijuana concentrates.

The event was open to people age 18 and older who possess a medical marijuana card, or anyone 21 or older.

Boyd believed the event was legal as long as he kept the people who are not authorized marijuana patients outside the dispensary. He wanted to have the egg hunt outdoors on his 75-acre farm.

Initiative 502, passed in 2012, allows for any adult age 21 or older to legally buy up to one ounce of marijuana products from state-licensed stores. It also permits people to have larger amounts of concentrates and marijuana-infused products.

The passage of I-502 did not affect the state’s medical marijuana law, which gives patients with a prescription for cannabis, and their designated provider, an affirmative defense to criminal prosecution if they possess up to 24 ounces of usable marijuana or 15 plants.

Boyd said the event his employees planned did not give him pause because he has attended other events where adults were smoking marijuana, such as the Cannabis Cup in Everett.

But by allowing anyone age 21 or older into the event instead of only doctor-authorized patients, Boyd mixed medical and recreational marijuana rules. The recreational system requires pot to be purchased from state-licensed sellers.

“I should have slowed down and thought that through,” Boyd said.

Although the egg hunt was a fairly obvious violation of the law, Slack said, law enforcement officers want to respect the wishes of Washington voters who approved recreational and medical marijuana use. But there’s still a lot of gray area in the rules.

“We don’t want to make criminals out of people who aren’t criminals,” Slack said. “The Legislature needs to define these laws so everybody has a clear playing field.”

Lawmakers in Olympia are debating how to merge the state’s medical and recreational marijuana industries, but no bills have made it to the governor’s desk so far this session, which ends in about two weeks.

Meanwhile, Boyd said, he plans to be at his dispensary Saturday to offer apologies, discounts and gas money to people who show up for the egg hunt, not realizing it was canceled. More than 650 people indicated on Facebook that they were planning to attend.

Boyd hopes state and federal lawmakers will make the rules for him and his six employees clear in the future.

“It’s a gray area game,” he said. “We’re trying to be as legit as we can.”

Amy Nile: 425-339-3192; anile@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @AmyNileReports.

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