Decades-old criminal conviction unlikely to sink pot shop hopeful's chances
David Halpern [Photo by Joe Smillie/Peninsula Daily News
By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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Halpern won a state-run lottery May 2 in his bid to run the one retail marijuana outlet allotted Sequim under the new recreational marijuana system approved by voters with the November 2012 passage of Initiative 502.
Winning the lottery means in this case that Halpern's business will be the first considered for Sequim as the state Liquor Control Board conducts intensive background checks.
Under the trade name Emanon Systems Inc., Halpern has applied to set up a retail marijuana store at 755 W. Washington St., Suite C.
Halpern spent time in federal custody after being convicted April 6, 1993, of smuggling 15 tons of supplements under the same Emanon business name he used to apply for a marijuana seller's license, the Peninsula Daily News learned last week.
“It was 20 years ago,” Halpern said. “I did do my time.”
After pleading guilty to importing drugs from Germany and England that had not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and selling them through his health food store business, Halpern was sentenced to two years in federal prison and three years' probation.
His mother, sister and brother-in-law also were sentenced in connection.
He said the drugs — said to be made from exotic jungle plants, animal tissues and human umbilical chords — are now legal after being reclassified as herbal supplements.
Halpern served six months in a federal medical facility in Rochester, Minn., before being released to serve one year of home detention.
Relationships made in federal custody did teach Halpern one thing, he said.
“The drug war doesn't work. That's part of the reason I wanted to be a part of this,” he said.
According to Halpern's license application obtained by the PDN through a public records request, Halpern disclosed the drug-smuggling conviction to the Liquor Control Board, along with a 1998 California conviction for inappropriate contact with a female younger than 18 and four traffic tickets.
Mikhail Carpenter, spokesman for the Liquor Control Board, would not speak directly about Halpern's application.
He said that in general, convictions from that long ago — provided they were disclosed to the state — would not likely influence the licensing decision.
“If it was 20 years ago, it's unlikely he would accumulate points for it,” Carpenter said.
“But it might be taken into account as part of our overall review.”
The Liquor Control Board scores applicants' criminal history based on the level of crimes and how long ago they occurred.
Applicants whose scores mount to 8 points or more will not receive licenses.
Those convicted of felony crimes in the past 10 years are given 12 points. Gross misdemeanors within three years are worth 5 points, misdemeanors within the past three years worth 4 points. Applicants currently under federal or state supervision for felony convictions receive 8 points.
Those who withhold criminal histories will be given 4 points on top of the points for the crimes they failed to disclose.
Applicants with pending offenses will have their application held until the case is resolved.
Carpenter said his office has fielded a high number of phone calls with information about the backgrounds of other recipients of pot licenses.
“We're getting a lot people calling to say, 'So-and-so did this,'” he said.
Applicants were screened by the Liquor Control Board before being entered into the lottery, which was held because 1,174 applicants passed initial screening to run the state's 334 stores.
Those selected in the lotteries for each jurisdiction where a pot shop was allotted are now going through more-intensive background checks, Carpenter said.
“What we want people to remember is that there's an entire screening process we're going through with all of these applicants,” he said.
On the North Olympic Peninsula, lotteries were held for two stores in Port Angeles, one in Sequim, three anywhere in Clallam County, one in Port Townsend and three anywhere in Jefferson County.
The lotteries consisted of 34 applicants, as 16 were rejected after the pre-screening process.
If a selected applicant fails to qualify for a license, the state would then move on to the next-ranked applicant on the lottery list.
Others on the Peninsula top-ranked in the state lotteries are:
■ Clallam County at large: The Hidden Bush, 2840 E. U.S. Highway 101, Port Angeles; High Grade Organics, 100 LaPush Road, Suite 602, Forks; Weed-R-Us, 2941 E. U.S. Highway 101, Port Angeles.
■ Jefferson County at large: Sea Change Cannabis, 282332 U.S. Highway 101, Port Townsend; Chimacum Cannabis, 1473 Chimacum Road, Building 1, Suite A; Herbal Access, 661 Ness Corner Road, Port Hadlock.
■ Port Angeles: Pacific Education, 536 Marine Drive, Suite B; Sparket, 1403 E. First St.
■ Port Townsend: Peninsula Herbal, 1433 W. Sims Way, Unit B.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last modified: May 11. 2014 2:11AM