Pubdate: Fri, 22 Feb 2013
Source: News Tribune, The (Tacoma, WA)
Copyright: 2013 Tacoma News, Inc.
Author: Rob Carson


The growers and sellers who make their living from Washington's 
illegal pot industry don't want to be left out when the 
billion-dollar business goes legit.

The growers and sellers who make their living from Washington's 
illegal pot industry don't want to be left out when the 
billion-dollar business goes legit.

About 250 people, many of them pot professionals, attended a public 
forum Thursday night at the Tacoma Trade & Convention Center. They 
were taking advantage of an opportunity to share their thoughts with 
members of the state Liquor Control Board, the group making the rules 
that will govern the state's legal cannabis trade.

One message was clear: Don't burn the little guy.

"We want to maintain our wonderful mom-and-pop operational grows," 
Dawn Darington said to loud applause. "Enforcement would be easy for 
you guys if you had just three big growers. That's not what we want."

Louis Archuleta, owner of a medical marijuana outlet on Pacific Avenue, agreed.

"I want the wealth to be spread," he said. "We need to work together. 
Please look at the big picture."

A parade of people used their allotted time at the microphone to 
praise Initiative 502, the ballot measure that made possession of 
small amounts of marijuana legal and called for a state-controlled 
system of production and sales

But many told board members the historic experiment will fail if the 
state tries to regulate or tax the industry too heavily.

"The American marketplace has always taken care of itself," said Gary 
Ruehle, who told board members he's been in the illegal marijuana 
business for most of his 73 years. "Restrict nothing. This is only a 
plant given to us by God."

I-502 established the basic framework of the new state controlled 
growing and selling system, but it left most of the details to the 
liquor board.

The initiative created three tiers of licenses: marijuana producers, 
marijuana processors and marijuana retailers.

Over the next few months the board will establish rules governing how 
many of each type of license will be issued and what the 
qualifications and requirements will be for each.

The board also will decide how to distribute licenses, whether by 
lottery or some other process.

Several of those who spoke at the Tacoma forum urged the board to 
insist on high-quality product with explicit labeling and strict bans 
on pesticides and other contaminants. Others cautioned against going 
too far in that direction.

"Cannabis regulates itself," said Michael Schaeff, an active 
participant in the local medical marijuana market. "If you have 
moldy, yucky cannabis, nobody's going to buy it."

Thursday's gathering was the sixth public forum the liquor board has 
organized in various parts of the state. Two more remain on its 
schedule  Feb. 28 in Yakima and March 7 in Bremerton.

The board expects to have draft rules for producers ready for public 
review in mid-April and plans to begin issuing producer licenses in mid-August.

Draft rules for processor and retailer licenses are expected by early 
June. According to the board's projected timeline, it will begin 
accepting processor and retailer license applications in September 
and begin issuing those licenses in November.

Retailer licenses could become effective as soon as Dec. 1, but 
stores might not open that soon. Some at Thursday's forum expressed 
doubts growers could have finished product ready by then.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom