Cannabis and Military Service

Many patrons thank us upon learning that we are a Veteran owned business. Lots of our customers relate their own service to us when they find out, or they tell us how their parents served, or children currently serve. It’s understandable, as we live in a society which, after a temporary setback in the late 60’s and early 70’s, has and continues to have an AMAZING relationship with its Armed Services, which have been completely volunteer-based since 1973. We may not always agree with an individual Administration, but we can largely get behind the sacrifices that the men and women of the US forces make in service to our civil society. Still, 7.6% of the population is an extreme minority, so most Americans have no idea what it is actually like to serve in the military.

My partner, Michael Endicott, and I both served in the armed forces. Three of our employees, (Derek (Tacoma), Shaun (Twisp), and Marty (Tonasket), served as well. While I can’t speak to the specifics of each of their service, I can tell you about mine.

The USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) through a periscope of a US Fast Attack Submarine

I enlisted and served in the United States Navy for nine years and two months, from November of 1996 until March of 2005. I trained at Great Lakes, Illinois, then Damneck, Virginia, on the path to becoming a Data Systems Technician. After completing training, I reported to the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, homeported in Bremerton, Washington, until February 2002. During that time, I served as the primary Anti-submarine warfare tech onboard, and the Carl Vinson participated in Operation Desert Fox (strikes on the Saddam Hussein regime) and Operation Enduring Freedom, which quickly became the Global War on Terrorism. I left fairly soon after the carrier had returned to homeport, and attached to Naval Air Weapons Center Point Mugu, California. I did three years of radar and communications repair at a tiny airfield just NW of Malibu, CA. This component of my service was an absolute blast. I spent the time raising my young family, surfing Point Mugu’s break, and finishing my college degree. When I left that facility, I returned to Washington State, bought a house in Tacoma, and attached to the USS Abraham Lincoln in Everett, Washington. Onboard that ship I was primarily responsible for maintaining the SIPRnet (secure, secret internet) uplink from the ship, and maintaining many assets on that network, onboard.

The author, Kevin, at a tactical station in Command and Control

I recognize that as an enlisted person, I had a fairly lavish lifestyle. Due to the classification rating of my equipment, my offices were often secure, and access codes weren’t exactly handed out. For that reason, my coworkers and I generally assembled our own clubhouse complete with TV, game system, kick-ass stereo, and gaming computers. One of the advantages of serving in a capacity of waiting for something to break is a bit of free time. I very much enjoyed watching jets take off and land from the crow’s nest on the O-10 level, 6 decks above the 4 ½ acre flight deck. Despite the fact that I am fairly independently minded, I managed to get by within the rigid framework of discipline and order.

My business partner, Michael Endicott, hangs 10 off a machine gun in the desert. Sometimes you have to take the waves when they come.

Even though we made life onboard as comfortable as possible, we lived for the moments when we pulled into port in exotic cities or foreign countries. In my 4+ years stationed onboard a Naval ship, I visited Hawaii (4x), Singapore (2x), Pattaya Thailand, Hong Kong, Perth (AUS), Hobart (AUS), Dubai (UAE), Jebel Ali (UAE), Bahrain, Sigonella Italy, Rota Spain, and the Azores Islands. Those experiences were truly priceless, and I treasure all the memories and friends.

Prior to joining the military, I had already been a prolific cannabis smoker. I was lucky enough to live on Mercer Island, near Seattle, and we had a pretty amazing, steady supply of BC hydro and Eugene soil grown at the time. My parents, and their honest approach led me to the least harmful adult intoxicant, cannabis. I maintain that an honest approach leads to an understanding that cannabis is for “anytime,” whereas chemicals and booze are for “sometimes.” Cannabis use has been so prolific since Vietnam era, that recruits were coached to say they’ve never tried it or have only tried it once.

The author, Kevin, and Mike Ricker (KISW, NW Leaf), 12 years after “The Call”.

I can’t speak to current policy, but I am willing to bet that the policy has changed little. I didn’t smoke any cannabis during the enlistment. I did smoke some the night I got out of the Navy. My mom scored me a quarter ounce of Seattle’s finest from a friend on Capitol Hill in Seattle, and I picked it up on my way through town. Really, quite bizarrely, I wanted to tell someone that I was going to get high, so I called Ricker back when he was at KISW and told him I was FREE of the Navy! He did graciously take my call and relayed to me that he was a Navy brat hailing originally from Pensacola, Florida (there is a massive Naval Air Base, there). We chatted for a few and then I was home. My ex and I decided to wait until the kids got to bed, then we smoked out of a one hitter (aka a bat) and got suuuuuper fucking high.

True. Even the DEA has admitted it.

During my time in the Navy, I did witness a culture that really steers sailors, soldiers, airmen, and marines to drinking, and it just isn’t a great practice. When I checked in to the Abraham Lincoln, they had literally just finished fishing dead human bodies out of the water after the Banda Aceh tsunami that killed 200,000 people near Christmas, 2004. There was a lot of stress and PTSD onboard from dealing with the event in a humanitarian manner, and for a while the good crew of the Abraham Lincoln was chalking up a DUI per day on the streets and highways of Washington State. The mitigation campaign was in full effect, to be fair, and they had video and stills of car wrecks (gore included) playing on a projector and large screen in the hangar bay, where the crew disembarks down a ladder and gangway, off the ship. I do wish the Armed Forces would choose the safer alternative, because cannabis IS safer than alcohol.

Though my cannabis life and my military life were quite separate in time, I do treasure the experiences in each of them, very much. In the end, I got a paycheck for over nine years, my college degree was paid (part of my grad degree, too), I travelled the world, and put up with a little bit of shit and showed up in an ironed uniform. I wasn’t much for shining my shoes to a high polish. But, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Closer Look, Flavored Vape Ban

So it happened, flavored vape carts are gone. We can all pour a little e-cig juice out in remembrance for what we once had…

I mean, I think pouring out e-cig juice into the trash is probably the best thing you can do with that stuff in the first place, but that’s just my personal opinion.

Back to marijuana vape carts… Our state has drafted legislation on the banning of flavored cartridges. What defines a flavored vape cart you may ask?

Our state Board of Health and Liquor and Cannabis board is in the process of figuring that out. They are trying to lock down what it means to define the word flavor.

According to WAC 246-80-010 they isolate the two words “characterizing flavor” and try to define what that means.”Characterizing flavor” means a distinguishable taste or aroma, or both, other than the taste or aroma of tobacco or marijuana or a taste or aroma derived from compounds or derivatives such as terpenes or terpenoids derived directly and solely from marijuana, as defined in RCW 69.50.101(y), or hemp plants that have been grown and tested as required by state law, imparted by a vapor product. Characterizing flavors include, but are not limited to, tastes or aromas relating to any fruit, chocolate, vanilla, honey, candy, cocoa, dessert, alcoholic beverage, menthol, mint, wintergreen, herb, or spice. A vapor product does not have a characterizing flavor solely because of the use of additives or flavorings or the provision of ingredient information. It is the presence of a distinguishable taste or aroma, or both, that constitutes a characterizing flavor.

So again we have this definition that I literally copy and pasted from the LCB website, but what does that actually translate to when considering product on our wall? Let us dive deeper.

On Thursday, October 10, it was my coworker’s and my task to take all the flavored vape carts and store them in quarantine, because ya know Governor’s orders.

So were sitting here taking down all our fruity and minty and basically any non-marijuana strain named cartridges out of our inventory. I cant help but notice that it just so happens all of the vape carts that we are ordered to take down are distillate vape carts. Excuse me, flavored distillate vape carts.

I would say that a large majority of the vape cart company’s in the i-502 market happen to be using the distillate extraction method. Many distillate cartridges claim to be strain specific when they are sourcing their terpenes from the same natural terpene vendors that the flavored distillate company’s were.

These distillate vape cart company’s use mixes of different natural terpenes to produce a similar taste and smell as a specific cannabis strain would. WITHOUT BEING CANNABIS DERIVED. We are allowed to continue selling these “strain specific” distillate vape carts despite them being made the exact same way and sourced the exact same way as flavored distillates. Which to me seems like some bullshit.

Lets look at this definition one more time… “Characterizing flavor” means a distinguishable taste or aroma, or both, other than the taste or aroma of tobacco or marijuana or a taste or aroma derived from compounds or derivatives such as terpenes or terpenoids derived directly and solely from marijuana.

To me, it seems like a ruling to allow a strain specific distillate vape cart that is derived in the exact same process in which our now banned flavored distillate vape carts is a complete oxymoron ruling from our governor.

I guess we’ll just chalk this ruling up to that’s what you get when the entity’s who regulate an industry don’t know nearly as much about it as the people who have to follow the rules.

Here’s one more look at a little graph I pulled off the LCB’s FAQ page:

Not-Allowed and Allowed Under Emergency Rule
Per the State Board of Health’s emergency rule amending 246-60 WAC and the definition of “characterizing flavor” contained therein:

Not AllowedAllowed
Synthetic terpenes and terpenoids or other synthetic flavoring compoundsTerpenes and terpenoid derived directly and solely from marijuana, as defined in RCW 69.50.101(y) , or hemp plants that have been grown and tested as required by state law
Botanically-derived terpenes, terpenoids or other botanically-derived flavoring compounds, except if directly derived and solely from marijuana plants tagged within the I-502 system or hemp plants 
Any other compounds that impart a “characterizing flavor” that is not specifically excluded   

So once again naturally derived terpenes that are found in our strain specific distillate vape carts are allowed to be sold but our almost identically made flavored distillate vape carts are banned.

If you want my real pro-tip, do yourself a favor and don’t buy distillate vape carts, they’re all garbage disguised as recycling.

Q&A With NPR

NPR called our shop last week! It was freaking cool. What the hell does NPR want with our homegrown little Tacoma House of Cannabis shop you say? Freaking Vape carts.

In the last week Governor Inslee announced an Executive Order to ban all flavored vaping products. The reality of that impact for marijuana businesses is still to be decided. On October 9th the Board of Health will draft legislation that if approved would ban flavored cartridges, require much more descript ingredient lists on labels, and other forms of potentially tightened regulations.

Back to earlier… When the NPR reporter called the shop, I gave my usual “Welcome to Good Burger, Home of the Good Burger, blah blah blah this is Kyle,” to which he replied, “Budtender Kyle! from the Blog? This is so and so from NPR…” I was a little stoned and thrown off at first, but then flattered that he had referenced our lowly little blog. I quickly put him on hold and handed the cordless to the boss. He was calling of course of the recent executive order from Governor Inslee.

So yea, the boss’ had a sit down with an NPR reporter. Fans of Tacoma House of Cannabis be on the look out for the article, we’ll even try to put a link to it on here, as long as they don’t say anything bad of course.

My boss gave me access to the talking points that they went over in their interview, so I decided to have a little fun and have my own Official unofficial Q&A with NPR.

So, in the universe where NPR reporters interview bloggers/budtenders for their opinion on groundbreaking topics, I imagine the conversation went a little something like this…

Q: What are you hearing from your customers about this? are you hearing anything?  

A: Most of our vape cart consumers either don’t know about the concerns in the media lately, or maybe they just don’t care. Three weeks ago when I first heard of vaping related scares in Oregon in the news maybe one or two consumers in a weeks worth of shifts asked me what I thought about the issues. In the last week, I’ve had maybe 10 consumers have concerns on the issue.

Q: How do you go about evaluating these vaping products as retailers?

A: Man you should probably freaking talk to my boss, but as a consumer I’ve always felt weird about vaping or smoking artificial flavored anything, if you ask me it should taste like what it is, not strawberries, or blueberries, or anything that isn’t cannabis derived.

Q: Has there been any noticeable impact on your business?

A: Not my business bro, I’m just the meter maid. What I do know is distillate vape carts make up 50% of the inventory of our vape cart selection, the flavored distillates being probably a quarter of the total section. If the state bans flavored distillates outright, certain processing companies will have to drastically change their business models or cease to exist.

Q: What would you like to see the state do or not do?

A: I think that on October 9th when the state’s Board of Health meets, they are going to continue the ban on all flavored vape carts and impose more regulation on the vape carts that they deem safe. Until then processors and retailers will continue to sell and buy all the flavored vape carts they can. Doesn’t really affect me to much, besides maybe having a few extra disappointed stoners to break the news too. So that sucks.

Q: Do you believe there needs to be more regulation/testing of these vaping products?

A: Honestly man I don’t think there is anything wrong with the vape cart products that we currently sell in the i-502 market. I also however do not have a problem with a bunch of white coats further regulating what is allowed into this industry, as long as where talking the science-y stuff like vape carts.

UPDATE FROM MANAGEMENT:

KNKX, a local NPR affiliate, filed their story, at this link. You can hear an audio version just below this text.