State Pot Officials Can Exhale

Oct 18, 2013

With lit­tle fan­fare in a drab con­fer­ence room, the state Liquor Con­trol Board adopted rules for a legal mar­i­juana sys­tem after 10 months of research, revi­sions, wran­gling with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and wrestling with who-would’ve-imagined ques­tions. In a unan­i­mous vote Wednes­day, state offi­cials charted the course for an exper­i­ment that seeks to under­cut ille­gal deal­ers and launched the next leg of the jour­ney: licens­ing a recreational-pot indus­try serv­ing cus­tomers with 334 retail stores. Adults will be able to walk into stores between 8 a.m. and mid­night begin­ning next year to buy small amounts of mar­i­juana prod­ucts, includ­ing buds and brown­ies pro­duced with state-certified safe lev­els of pes­ti­cides and other chem­i­cals. “The Wash­ing­ton state Liquor Con­trol Board just built the tem­plate for respon­si­ble legal­iza­tion of mar­i­juana,” said Ali­son Hol­comb, chief author of the legal-pot law. Hol­comb is trav­el­ing to Eng­land, Poland and the Nether­lands in com­ing weeks to dis­cuss Washington’s law and rules, and is part of a new panel study­ing the idea in Cal­i­for­nia. Liquor-board mem­bers pre­dicted a bumpy ride for the next year or so, with fur­ther tweak­ing of the rules likely. “We might not have it exactly right today,” said board mem­ber Chris Marr of the 43 pages of rules. “But we’re in an excel­lent posi­tion to open stores in the mid­dle of next year.” State offi­cials expect stores to open as early as May. Farms would start grow­ing sev­eral months ear­lier. In those stores, marked by a sin­gle sign that can’t be much big­ger than 3 feet by 3 feet under the rules, con­sumers won’t be able to sam­ple prod­ucts. They will be able, how­ever, to smell sam­ples through screened con­tain­ers that do not allow them to touch pot. Child­proof pack­ag­ing will be required for edi­ble prod­ucts. All pack­ages will con­tain warn­ing labels say­ing mar­i­juana has intox­i­cat­ing effects and may be habit-forming. Labels will warn con­sumers of health risks, par­tic­u­larly the risks for preg­nant women. They also will show potency, as mea­sured in per­cent­age of THC, the key psy­choac­tive chem­i­cal in pot. In what state offi­cials hope will be a com­pet­i­tive edge for the recre­ational sys­tem, retail stores will stock only prod­ucts deter­mined to have safe lev­els of pes­ti­cides, bac­te­ria, mois­ture and met­als. Randy Sim­mons, the state mar­i­juana project direc­tor, said he’s heard of grow­ers who have added sand to pot to give it addi­tional weight, who have painted pot to make it more desir­ably pur­ple, and who have spiked buds with hash oil to make them more potent. Labels will dis­close all pes­ti­cides used in the grow­ing of the prod­uct. Con­sumers can ask retail­ers for full test results of chem­i­cals and for­eign mat­ter found in prod­ucts. State-regulated pot can’t be labeled organic, Sim­mons said, because the fed­eral gov­ern­ment bestows that stan­dard and it still con­sid­ers mar­i­juana a dan­ger­ous drug. But the state is using fed­eral stan­dards for organic prod­ucts as a model for its rules, he said. Prices in stores will be deter­mined by the mar­ket, not state offi­cials. But state con­sul­tants have writ­ten about sce­nar­ios in which prices could range between $6 and $17 per gram depend­ing on whole­sale farm prices and markups. Con­sumers will be able to buy pot grown under the sun in out­door farms, as well as weed grown indoors, which uses more elec­tric­ity and has a larger car­bon foot­print. The rules give an advan­tage to indoor grow­ers, Sim­mons acknowl­edged. That’s because rules limit all farms to a max­i­mum of 30,000 square feet and indoor farms can pro­duce four har­vests a year com­pared with two for out­door grow­ers in Wash­ing­ton state. Jeremy Moberg, an Okanogan County activist, and Hol­comb, criminal-justice direc­tor for the ACLU of Wash­ing­ton, both argued for a more equi­table sys­tem. They pro­posed lim­it­ing indoor farms to half the size of out­door farms as one way to level the play­ing field. But Sim­mons said the state wants to make sure it meets the esti­mated demand for 80 met­ric tons of pot next year. It might not if it cut the size of indoor farms, he said, and if it dou­bled the size of out­door farms it might antag­o­nize fed­eral watch­dogs. Sim­mons believes demand will increase in time, and when the state expands its sup­ply that will pro­vide an oppor­tu­nity for out­door grow­ers to make up ground. State offi­cials believe the 334 pot stores, which are allo­cated sim­i­larly to the state’s defunct liquor stores, will be enough. But Seat­tle City Attor­ney Pete Holmes has asked the state to con­sider allo­cat­ing more stores to the city than the 21 it has planned. If there are more qual­i­fied appli­cants in a city than stores allot­ted, the state will use a lot­tery sys­tem to pick win­ners, lit­er­ally by draw­ing names, Sim­mons said. The state can’t use a merit sys­tem to award licenses, Sim­mons said. Unlike con­tracts, which can rely on merit, state licenses are threshold-based, he said; if appli­cants meet the stan­dards they qual­ify for licenses. There appear to be more than enough entre­pre­neurs eager to meet the state’s require­ments for grow­ers, proces­sors and retail­ers. The Liquor Con­trol Board is hold­ing licens­ing sem­i­nars in seven cities this month to inform and advise entre­pre­neurs about the rules and appli­ca­tion process. Sem­i­nars in five cities already are fully booked. In all, of the 2,440 seats avail­able at all seven sem­i­nars, 1,991 were taken by Wednes­day. The state on Nov. 18 will open a 30-day win­dow for accept­ing appli­ca­tions for grow­ing, pro­cess­ing and retail licenses, and expects to start issu­ing them, after back­ground checks, in Decem­ber at the ear­li­est. Some cities remain resis­tant to pot com­merce and have adopted mora­to­ri­ums and other restric­tions that would effec­tively keep pot mer­chants away. But oth­ers such as Seat­tle, Bain­bridge Island and Belle­vue are mov­ing ahead with zon­ing and other reg­u­la­tions for per­mit­ting pot com­merce. Sev­eral lawyers who advise pot entre­pre­neurs said cities seem to be warm­ing to pot com­merce now that the state has adopted rules and the fed­eral Depart­ment of Jus­tice has said it won’t try to stop Washington’s legal sys­tem — approved by vot­ers last Novem­ber — pro­vided it is tightly reg­u­lated. “It’s not hap­pen­ing quickly, but I do have a sense there’s been a bit of a shift,” said Can­dice Bock of the Asso­ci­a­tion of Wash­ing­ton Cities. Offi­cials in some of the reluc­tant cities have said they’re wor­ried about the impact of legal pot com­merce on com­mu­nity char­ac­ter. But the Liquor Con­trol Board’s Marr said that exclud­ing legit­i­mate pot busi­nesses only pro­motes the illicit pot mar­ket that already exists within those com­mu­ni­ties. To keep store own­er­ship from con­cen­trat­ing in the hands of a few, the rules do not allow a per­son or com­pany to own more than three retail stores in the state. Source: Seat­tle Times (WA) Author: Bob Young, Seat­tle Times Staff Reporter Pub­lished: Octo­ber 16, 2013 Copy­right: 2013 The Seat­tle Times Com­pany Con­tact: opinion@​seatimes.​com Web­site: http://​www​.seat​tle​times​.com/

40b6916ae2rge570.jpg 150x62 State Pot Officials Can Exhale

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State Pot Offi­cials Can Exhale

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