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.
Rob Carson: 253-597-8693 rob.carson@ thenewstribune.com