orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

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March 6, 2013

Wash. and Colo. 'potrepreneurs' see opportunity

LACEY, Wash. — Kim Ridgway and her wife, Kimberly Bliss, can well envision the shop they plan to open — where they'll put the accessories, the baked goods and the shelves stacked with their valuable product: jars of high-quality marijuana.

Like many so-called "potrepreneurs" throughout Washington and Colorado, they're scrambling to get ready for the new world of regulated, taxed marijuana sales to adults over 21 — even though the states haven't even figured out how they are going to grant licenses.

Farmers and orchardists are studying how to grow marijuana. Some medical pot dispensaries are preparing to switch to recreational sales. Labs that test the plant's potency are trying to figure out how to meet standards the states might develop.

It's a lot of work for something that might never happen.

"We don't want to devote all our time and finances to building a business, only to have the feds rip it out from under us," Bliss said. "There's a huge financial risk, and a huge personal risk. We could end up in federal prison."

While marijuana remains illegal under federal law, both states legalized the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana last November and are setting up rules to govern state-licensed growers, processors and retailers.

Attorney General Eric Holder, who is due to appear Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, has said the Justice Department is in the final stages of deciding whether to sue to block the measures. State laws can be trumped if they "frustrate the purpose" of federal law.

A group of former Drug Enforcement Administration heads and the United Nations drug control group this week renewed calls for the administration to sue, and some legal scholars say it's hard to see how the schemes would survive a court challenge.

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