Pubdate: Tue, 28 Oct 2014
Source: Denver Post (CO)
Copyright: 2014 The Associated Press
Author: Carla K. Johnson, The Associated Press


In the Industry, the Situation Is Called the "Immaculate Conception" Issue.

Chicago (AP) - As more states legalize medical marijuana, there's one 
stage in the process nobody wants to talk about: the part where 
people still have to break the law.

After growers obtain licenses, plan for security and build 
facilities, they then must obtain their first seeds or cuttings - 
while regulators turn a blind eye.

"It has to be hush-hush," said Bradley Vallerius, an attorney focused 
on the emerging industry in Illinois. "I've seen the moment where the 
client realizes this is a problem" - and wonders how they're supposed 
to get started.

The situation is known as the "immaculate conception" or the "first 
seed" problem. Those involved see it as an absurd consequence of the 
nation's patchwork of laws, with 23 states allowing medical marijuana 
sales, Colorado and Washington state allowing recreational use and a 
federal prohibition in place.

While marijuana may not be hard to find, getting the first seeds for 
medical operations often involves either descending into the 
underground market or crossing state lines - a violation of state and 
federal laws.

One Colorado grower, Toni Fox, says she ordered her first seeds for a 
medical crop five years ago from advertisers in High Times magazine. 
If they showed up at all, they came hidden in packages with T-shirts 
and coffee mugs.

In Illinois, where medical marijuana growing permits will be granted 
later this year, suit-and-tie capitalists are connecting with 
black-market growers for seeds or cuttings. Online, seed banks in the 
Netherlands and Canada promise discreet shipping in unmarked packages.

Most state laws are silent on the issue, forcing officials into a 
"don't ask, don't tell" stance. In Washington state, growers have a 
15-day, no-questions-asked period during which they can bring 
non-flowering plants into their operation, which must then be 
bar-coded and registered.

Some business owners will get plants on the black market. Another 
source will be out-of-state growers in legal markets. Many believe 
starter plants will be brought into Illinois covertly.

With its thriving recreational market, Colorado would seem a likely 
source. But it's risky for growers to divert plants out of state, 
cautioned Colorado Director of Marijuana Enforcement Lewis Koski.

"I'm not aware of a lawful way for that to occur," Koski said. "A 
business could have their license revoked. The members of the company 
could face criminal charges."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom