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Pot: So, Is It Botched?

The Liquor Control Board has issued 164 grower’s licenses, and 43 retailer licenses so far in Washington State. Few of those store licenses have actually opened, and when they have there is very little product available for sale. So why has it taken so long, compared to Colorado?

Colorado had a licensed medical infrastructure in place which they felt was under control enough they could just convert them to retail. Washington did not have a licensing or registration system in place so they had to start from scratch. Once licensed, growers had to start from seeds or cuttings so there wasn’t going to be any product until it ripened. Just like tomatoes. The first crop is just now coming ready, and there will be a lot in the very near future.

The LCB is processing grower licenses at about 12 per week, and retail at about 6 or 7. The best I can tell they are moving as fast as you’d expect given the work in processing applications. There was a delay in processing early on when the federales refused to help in the background checking, but that got resolved after several weeks. I checked to see if the LCB was doing more than what the law required, but it seems they are following the law quite closely. The LCB has not botched it, and is not being unduly bureaucratic. To my surprise.

There were a lot of applications submitted, and a large number were flawed. Flaws included not reading the directions, not providing all information, and not signing the forms. Each has to be processed, though, to discover these shortcomings, and that injects delays into the system. There were cries of anguish that “it was only a little mistake” or “they should’ve known what I meant” but bureaucratic regulatory agencies don’t work like that. Obviously a lot of applicants were neophytes in dealing with the government.

The law itself is quite specific, and quite onerous. This was necessary to assure it’s passage, and some items need to be tweaked later. Meanwhile it is what it is, and all applicants/licensees need to read and understand it. If they don’t like it, they should find another endeavor for now.

While the LCB is carefully adhering to the law, they also must be following the federales’ “guidelines” to keep them from shutting the whole works down. Licensees need to be just as aware of these guidelines.

Applicants and successful licensees have run into problems with local zoning and permitting rules in their community. Many stores are not open because they completely ignored the need for a building permit or satisfying zoning regulations. They complain that since they have a license from the state, they are entitled to open up the doors. Again, a completely amateurish error.

Some licensees encountered a community “moratorium” on granting business licenses to pot firms. They have a license from the state, but the town won’t allow their business. Colorado has this hassle, and Washington does, too. The trick is to an include a clause in the enabling legislation to allow or disallow local overrides of the state law. Oregon learned from this experience and disallows such overrides. In Washington, it’s going to court. Hundreds of lawyers in Colorado and Washington are working hard on getting this issue resolved locally because if it escalates to the federal level the whole game is in jeopardy.

I don’t think Washington has botched it at all, maybe quite the contrary. Colorado had a system in place they liked and trusted, but Washington didn’t. Colorado had established business people they knew and had experience with, Washington needs to filter the flakes from the serious. I haven’t seen any problems with the LCB, and complaints from applicants and licensees are frequently their own making. The Washington experience will weigh very, very heavy in future endeavors.

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