Thursday, January 24, 2013

Olympia Washington legal marijuana public hearing

The Washington State Liquor Control Board is the agency in the state government that is tasked with coming up with the rules to implement the voter-approved recreational marijuana system specified by Initiative 502
As part of that rulemaking process, they are holding a series of public meetings where anyone who has an opinion is encouraged to provide it to the board. 
This particular meeting was held in a room that can comfortably seat about 150 people.  More than 500 people attended.  Standing room only. 
They'll put anyone on TV.  Even me. 
 The local tv stations had interview stations out in the lobby where they interviewed a variety of people. 

Here's a summary of a couple of hours of comments: 

There is quite a bit of worry in this community that by providing their name and address and so on to a public agency that they would be targeted by thieves intent on stealing their crop just prior to harvest.  This was mentioned by several speakers, and security is a big concern. 

A secondary concern is that by providing this information that it was making them easy targets for federal enforcement.

There is a fight brewing between initiative 502-based recreational shops and medical marijuana (MMJ) shops.  Shops licensed by initiative 502 have a variety of restrictions -- cannot be near a park, or school, or playground, etc, based on the federal law that creates enhanced prison sentences for dealing near a school.  MMJ are not subject at this point to that sort of restriction, and so can locate their retail outlets nearer to customers, and in many more desirable locations.  There are also no limits on the total number of MMJ shops, and there are limits to the number of I502 shops.   This is causing quite a bit of concern from the people proposing to sell retail under I502 that they will be at a big competitive disadvantage.  My sense is that the MMJ folks are pretty happy with things as they are, and that the I502 will be very unhappy. 

A number of commenter talked about a concern that large growers will eclipse or eliminate smaller growers, or that the quality would go down if larger grows happened, or that the number of licenses would be limited, making it difficult for small growers to get into the market.  

There were a number of comments on very specific restrictions on grows; use of specific chemicals, or fertilizers, soil PH levels, etc.  Some comments wanted very specific grow standards, others wanted no standards.  Some people wanted indoor grows only.  Some wanted choice on grow. 

Several of the commenter talked about the economics of the grow, one claiming that by her spreadsheet figures it would cost $1300 a pound to produce MJ.  Others saying that the eventual price of the crop should be compared to saffron, at $500 a pound, or cut flowers and fresh herbs. 

One commenter claimed that the liquor control board had grossly underestimated the size of the pot market in Washington state, saying that it was "probably a BILLION dollar market!  ". 

several farmers spoke, advocating that the current rules on handling edible food were sufficient, and no further grow-specific regulation was needed. 

"We need to have a significant application process so inexperienced people will not be able to get into the business"

More than 5 of the people specifically asked that a felony conviction for (possession, dealing, smuggling, producing) drugs not bar license issuance.  Others asked that a poor credit rating not bar an applicant.  Both of these can be used to bar someone from being issued a liquor license. 

The board was asked directly if they smoked MJ.  The surprising answer from one board member?  probably yes.   One was 7 months pregnant, the other quit smoking anything in 1981. 

The vast majority of people attending this meeting didn't say a word.  They gathered in small groups and listened very carefully to each speaker.   The people producing MJ at this time are looking at their market changing in a very real way.  There are a lot of people who make their living growing in the underground economy, and they are watching this process very carefully.

You will find the raw audio of this meeting here

 The view for the majority of people was the backs of the heads of folks in this standing-room only crowd. 
 Each speaker was given "2" minutes but was actually allowed to go on at length if they desired.  I didn't see anyone cut off. 
 Each speaker could speak from prepared notes, and some had copies of their comment to hand to the board to make sure that it was correctly noted and attributed. 
 The board itself was remarkably patient with the comments, and generally positive about it.  I thought that they handled themselves quite well, given the variety of comments received. 
 Local law enforcement, in the form of the county Sheriff, was present, although the crowd in general tended to form a hollow wherever they stood. 
Some speakers brought props to support their statements.  Here, a necklace of hemp. 

No comments: