Recreational Marijuana Is Legal In Washington But It’s Splitting Rural Communities

Recreational Marijuana Is Legal In Washington But It’s Splitting Rural Communities


And they basically were worried that there was gonna
be some sort of new marijuana weed cheese
that would harm the Cougar Gold and the
Ferdinand’s ice cream that they produce there. (upbeat instrumental music) – Hi, I’m Scott Leadingham. Thanks for joining us here
in the Unique Northwest. Today we’re here
with Jacob Jones, founder and editor
of the news website Whitman County Watch. Thanks for joining
us today, Jacob. – Thanks for having me. – So Jacob’s gonna be telling us about some of the
happenings going on around the Palouse region
and some of the things he’s been reporting on. First Jacob, this issue
with a police officer, a former police officer, for the city of Pullman, who now stands charged with
custodial sexual misconduct. The jury just selected, trial’s getting underway. Tell us more about
the background with the case of
Daniel Hargraves. – Sure, so back
in April of 2018, a young woman, an
18-year-old WSU freshman, came forward alleging
that an officer had basically coerced her
into performing a sex act to avoid getting arrested for
alleged underage drinking. That investigation turned
out that she had had contact with a couple of
different local officers, and they later focused on
former Sergeant Dan Hargraves, and went through all of
the evidence of that night as far as his body
camera footage, what incidents he
had responded to, cellphone data from the woman, and other factors. And eventually they were able to match DNA from her clothing to DNA samples that they
took from the sergeant. – And then he eventually,
he left the force. He basically resigned right
before he was arrested, and now the trial. That was several months ago. – Right, back in, last fall he, the
internal investigation was gonna interview
him and he decided to resign, basically, in lieu of termination, and was arrested shortly after
that on his felony warrant. – You’ve written about
this case and others involving disciplinary issues
for the city of Pullman and its police department, and other police
departments in the region, and a lot of that depends
on the use of public records and robust public records laws. Washington has a pretty good one for journalists and
private citizens to request records
and do digging. I’m just curious,
how much of your work really depends on
those public records, and is it not possible to
do your work without them, or is it just something
that enhances your work, but otherwise you’d still
be able to do what you do? – Sure, in a lot of
ways public records are pretty foundational for the type of reporting that I do, that sort of government
transparency. A lot of it is looking
at accountability issues. Those records are often
documents that reflect either internal issues
that that government’s been struggling with, or disciplinary matters, the types of things
that agencies aren’t probably gonna put
out a press release about, they’re not gonna announce. And so while they might
be doing some of that work to handle things
behind the scenes, without public records a
lot of that information would never come to light as far as what citizens know about how the
government operates. – Well, speaking of
some of your stories, you’ve recently reported on the issue of marijuana regulation. And of course, we know that
Washington State voters passed legalized
marijuana in 2012. However, there’s a lot
of leeway for counties to have regulation within that, whether they allow businesses or how many business
licenses, growers, those sorts of things. And so you’ve recently
reported on some of the issues that have come up, particularly in southeastern
Washington and Whitman County, but it applies in
other areas as well. Basically, how rural counties are treating
marijuana regulation. Tell us a little bit about
what you’ve reported on. – Right, like you said, as the regulations on
marijuana have kind of evolved at the last few years as the
state’s been figuring it out, a lot of Eastern Washington
counties or cities have decided that
they wanna impose stricter rules on
growers or processors than what the state requires. The AG’s office for the state
has basically determined that there is no right to
operate a marijuana business. You can operate a
marijuana business, but if local governments wanna completely shut
that down, they can. So there’s an
interesting conflict between these sort of rural
agriculture-based economies that could be
looking at marijuana as sort of this new cash crop, but having sort of
a clash of culture against sort of family values and some of the
traditional concerns about marijuana usage. – I was surprised to learn
in some of your reporting that Washington
State University, on whose campus
we currently are, we should note that, was in favor of retaining a
moratorium in Whitman County, if I’ve said that correctly. So they were basically wanting to keep some stricter regulation on marijuana businesses
in the county, and the university itself
does a lot of research, or is trying to do research. Its own researchers
and scientists are doing a study on marijuana, and they’ve run into
issues at the federal level of getting access to
marijuana to be grown and then used for
their own research. WSU was trying to basically
support the moratoriums going on in Whitman County. That was an interesting
kind of interplay there. What was their reasoning there? – Right, so the, Whitman County just finished its first
sort of six-month moratorium on things, and that was
sparked by a business, Selway Holdings,
that wanted to put in a new processing
facility south of Pullman that coincidentally
would have been right next to the WSU dairy. So some of the folks
in the dairy program and the rest of the
agricultural research program came forward with these concerns that somehow the marijuana grow might have aerosolized particles that could contaminate the
feed at the dairy facility or somehow contaminate
the milk supply. And they basically were worried And they basically were worried that there was gonna
be some sort of new marijuana weed cheese
that would harm the Cougar Gold and the
Ferdinand’s ice cream that they produce there. – So, on another
story that you’ve done – So, on another
story that you’ve done involving controlled substances, opioids of course
and the painkillers that are produced from them are a topic of much
reporting nationally, and of course how
they’re handled by regulators and
pharmaceutical companies has been of great
interest lately. You did some reporting
over the summer involving basically how
many opioid painkillers, legal ones, are coming through
pharmacies in the region, especially one in Colfax, a relatively small town
of less than three, fewer than 3,000 people, and millions, I think it
was about three million. – 3.3 million. – 3.3 million pills in through this one pharmacy in Colfax, over the course of
less than 10 years, 2006 to 2013 when the
data is available. That seems very striking, but tell us a little bit more. Dig into the data there for us. How did you find that
information, first of all? That seems like
it’d be hard to get. And also too, what
is that really saying about what’s going
on in Whitman County? – Sure, so it was pretty
easy data for me to get, but it was extremely hard
for The Washington Post and the local newspapers, that kind of went to
bat for that data, to get their hands on it. It’s data that was originally
collected and maintained by the Drug Enforcement
Administration. The Washington Post
and some local papers fought to get that released as part of the ongoing
Purdue Pharma opioid lawsuit that’s going on, and so those newspapers made that data
available nationwide. So that’s what my local
reporting is based on, is that data set. And I would note that as part of the overall opioid crisis, this is a pretty small
window into that. The latest data is from 2012, and again a lot of
opioid issues stem from either stolen pills
or from heroin abuse, that kinda thing. But I do think that as the
crisis was sort of peaking, it shows just the
volume of pills that were going through
rural and small towns. Whitman County only has
about a dozen pharmacies and almost half of
the pills went out through this Colfax pharmacy. The owner of that
pharmacy says that they serve a large area
of the county. They have a lot of rural
people that come in to get their prescriptions
filled there. They have an aging population. They have a population that
does a lot of manual labor, farmwork, things
that might lead them to having higher rates
of opioid prescriptions. So I think it’s an
interesting insight into the overall problem. Certainly doesn’t
tell the whole story, but as we all kinda
grapple with this crisis, it’s nice to get our
arms around some of it. – And so you, first of
all we should be clear. You aren’t alleging
any sort of impropriety or something illegal
or illicit going on through this pharmacy– – No, certainly not. It was all just a look
with the information that was available about
what areas kinda sell what levels of these
pills being distributed. – And though, how
does it compare to, you said there’s about
a dozen pharmacies. And this was vastly
outweighed, maybe by proportion other pharmacies in
the comparatively, is that what you’re saying? – Right, in that same time
period of ’06 to 2012, more pills went out through
that Colfax pharmacy than the eight pharmacies
combined in the Pullman area, so the largest
city in the county. The second largest
pharmacy by distribution was also another
small, rural town, a pharmacy up in St. John. So I think there is a, an argument that
being sort of remote and having a large
rural base of, of customers can
inflate the numbers going through your pharmacy. – Well, it’s
interesting reporting, and we appreciate you
bringing it to our attention. Thank you so much, Jacob, for joining us today. – Thank you. – Jacob Jones is the
editor and founder of the news website
Whitman County Watch. If you want to support that or find out more of
what he’s reporting on, you can look at it at
whitmancountywatch.com. And more news of the Northwest on our website is at nwpb.org. Thank you for joining us
here in the Unique Northwest. (upbeat instrumental music)

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