View attachment 30115 Liquor Control Board to invent a pot market, from seed to store
The state Liquor Control Board has an interesting job in the year ahead: to get into the weeds of how marijuana is grown, sold and used.
Washington voters' decision to legalize marijuana means the state Liquor Control Board (LCB) now has a year to set regulations for the first-of-its-kind marijuana market. But first, the small state agency must go on an even stranger mission — to get into the, well, weeds of how marijuana is grown, sold and used.
At a hearing on Friday before a state Senate committee, Pat Kohler, the LCB director, said the agency would need to hire a consultant — a pot expert — to gather input from key groups of police, farmers, users and others to help her staff better "understand the product and the industry itself." The agency has been getting a lot of advice, said Rick Garza, Kohler's deputy. "There's a lot of people who think they have a lot of experience in this area," Garza said, prompting laughs from lawmakers.
The voter-approved Initiative 502 requires the LCB to license and regulate a seed-to-store closed marijuana market, with the first licenses to be issued in late 2013. Based on a state fiscal analysis, it will be a big market: 363,000 users consuming 187,000 pounds of marijuana each year, with steep sin taxes generating more than $560 million a year. Those taxes may eventually pay for regulation, but in the startup phase, Kohler said, Gov. Chris Gregoire would ask the Legislature to let the LCB tap existing funds to hire 40 new staffers, most of them enforcement officers. Kohler said she'd like more information on how much pot Washingtonians use now, because, "Consumption will drive the number of stores, and the production."
At the hearing, Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, asked about the law's conflict with federal prohibition of marijuana. Kohler said Gregoire planned to talk with federal authorities a second time, but her agency was proceeding regardless. "We're not sure we'll get any direction from the federal government," she said
. By Jonathan Martin
Seattle Times staff reporter
Originally published Friday, November 30, 2012 at 9:46 PM
It seems to me that the most important aspect of developing an implementation plan is to find a way to deal with the federal government. Without that, the rest of all of this won't really matter. If I were in charge of this, the following would be my strategy. Please keep in mind that what I am suggesting does not necessarily represent my views on marijuana laws in general, but rather how I would proceed as an advocate for I-502.
1. I would stay on message that this is about controlling marijuana, by placing firm limits on the amounts that can be sold or possessed. That this is about taking the profits out of the hands of "criminals" hopefully driving many black-marketers out of the business. Currently the marijuana market is thriving and law enforcement efforts are not likely to change this. Given that I-502 was designed by ex prosecutors and supported by many in law enforcement, this message will have more credibility than it would coming from a bunch of pro pot activist. Washington should be allowed to follow through with this experiment. If the experiment fails, this will discourage others states from going down the same path.
2. Washington is not getting out of the marijuana enforcement business, but rather shifting focus. The new focus will be on marijuana trafficking and the selling of marijuana to minors. By allowing legal access for adults to have small amounts for marijuana, a public which has largely been apathetic on marijuana enforcement, may view marijuana dealing of less of a victimless crime and be more supportive of enforcement efforts.
3. With strict limits on what can be purchased there is limited risk to other states of marijuana exports. The high taxes will also help keep prices up, so there will be little incentive for buyers to come to Washington from other states, except those living in bordering states who are simply looking to buy a little pot for personal use.
4. Once the state approved stores are opened, the state will move to close the medical marijuana dispensaries, which are not actually legal in Washington, but are tolerated in many places. One reason they are tolerated is that medical marijuana patients need somewhere to get their medicine. Form what I have seen the prices should not be much different in the new stores as they are in the dispensaries. Dispensaries technically can sell a patient up to a pound and a half of pot and can sell up to 15 starter plants. They also can sell to those under 21 who have an authorization. While the prices for small amounts of pot in the dispensaries is fairly high, quantities can be purchased at very competitive prices. The dispensaries are a source of a great deal of pot that is diverted into the black market, this is the threat to the neighboring states. It should be made clear that if the state approved stores are not allowed to open, that the dispensaries will be allowed to operate at the discretion of local communities.
5. I-502 is a very conservative measure, which is why it passed by such a large margin, even with substantial resistance from many pro pot activists and the medical marijuana community. If I-502 is not allowed to be implemented, it is only a matter of time before there is enough support in Washington for a much more liberal measure to pass. Perhaps one that simply allows adults to grow their own legally, with no taxes involved. The feds can close the stores and stop the taxes, but they can not make Washington make criminals out of it's pot using citizens. My guess is if the Oregon measure had been on the Washington ballot it would have failed, but by a very small margin. But momentum is on the side of legalization, two years from now maybe a toss up, four years from now a narrow victory. This is the feds chance to have a say in how legalization is going to look like.
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