Deputy to lead Liquor Control Board

Staff reportMay 15, 2013 

The state Liquor Control Board is promoting deputy director Rick Garza to director, putting him at the helm of an effort to create a system of licensed, taxed and regulated marijuana.

Garza begins his new job June 1, before the liquor board is expected to file its official draft rules for marijuana. The board is kicking off that process Thursday with the release of initial rules aimed at garnering public feedback.

A liquor board employee since 1997, Garza has a wide-ranging portfolio as deputy that involves dealing with the Legislature, Indian tribes and the news media.

Board chairwoman Sharon Foster said he is regarded as “an expert on many issues,” and Gov. Jay Inslee called him “a creative leader and a team player” in the liquor board news release.

Spokesman Brian Smith said two members of the board, Foster and Ruthann Kurose, voted Tuesday at what the agency calls a “board caucus.” He said the third member, Chris Marr, was out of town but “indicated his support” for appointing Garza. The board discussed the appointment and interviewed Garza at a previous closed meeting, Smith said. Garza was the only candidate the board interviewed.

Pat Kohler, the director since 2002, is leaving after Inslee chose her as director of the Department of Licensing. “Things will go on smoothly without me, ” she said at a recent board meeting. She said she had been interested in “new opportunities” for a while, and wasn’t reacting to the dramatic overhaul of the liquor board’s responsibilities caused by voters’ privatization of liquor and legalization of marijuana.

The rules scheduled for release Thursday reflect the agency’s initial thinking on what Washington’s system of marijuana growing, processing and retailing will look like, the agency said in a release Tuesday.

“These initial draft rules reflect the board’s stated goal of developing a tightly regulated and controlled market,” it said. “The board is concerned with out-of-state diversion of product, traceability of products, responsible business practices, youth access, and other public and consumer safety issues.”

The proposed rules will be available at

People who want to comment on the rules can email or respond by mail at Rules Coordinator, Liquor Control Board, P.O. Box 43080, Olympia, WA 98504-3080.

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