FBI to help WA state with background checks for marijuana licenses

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by SHAWN CHITNIS & KREM.com

KREM.com

Posted on April 14, 2014 at 5:41 PM

Updated Monday, Apr 14 at 6:41 PM

SPOKANE, Wash.—The FBI agreed to help Washington State with background checks on people applying for a marijuana license. Spokane leaders were asking for the new policy.

The City Council was set to vote on a resolution Monday night calling on federal background checks for anyone trying to get into the marijuana industry. The Department of Justice agreed to help. Local businesses said it would help keep criminals out of the industry.

Paul Lugo runs the Herbal Connection Dispensary in North Spokane. He works with medical marijuana but has been following how the state is preparing for recreational use of the drug.

"I think it's a huge advantage, it let's law enforcement know that these places are run by citizens, not felons,” said Lugo.

Lugo said he was glad the Department of Justice agreed to open up the FBI database to the Washington State Liquor Control Board.

Leaders across the state had been asking for help from the federal government for a year.

"Making sure that we aren't having situations where marijuana isn't bleeding over into other states, but if we don't have a tool of an FBI background check, it makes it really hard to do that,” said Spokane City Councilman Jon Snyder. .

The State’s Liquor Control Board was using the Washington State Patrol database for background checks. Anyone applying for a marijuana license had to provide fingerprints to the board.

City leaders said they think the FBI database will be an important tool to make sure the right [people enter the marijuana business.

"We need all the help we can get to do this right, I-502 is a very hard law to implement,” said Snyder.

One of the main reasons state leaders asked for the FBI database was to keep organized crime out of legalized pot. Those working with the drug said the new level of security could keep criminals away from the industry.

"Knowing that there are going to be these kind of background checks, I do think it will detour some people from applying,” said Lugo.

Anyone with a felony conviction in the last ten years would be disqualified from applying for a marijuana license.

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