Washington legislation

Washington has very strict rules concerning who can and cannot hold a cannabis license, perhaps the strictest in the nation. Anyone associated with the licensee’s business must have a WA driver’s license, for example. Or anyone involved for $1 or more is subject to financial background checks and fingerprinting. The idea here in the original initiative that residents be given a head-start on the industry before grabby people from CA and OR came in and took over. The feds demanded that the brown-skinned “cartels” from Mexico be kept out of the businesses.

Most of the bills before the legislature seem to be intended to override the Liquor and Cannabis Board’s rule-making; it’s beat-up time on the LCB for the lawmakers. If the LCB can get the message, they’ll clean up their heavy-handed act next week or face a bunch of laws taking away their power. I suspect most of these revenge bills won’t need to be passed if the lawmakers and the regulators can reach a deal offline.

Here’s an example (simplified a bit by me). The LCB uses a standard of “true party of interest” to determine if anyone involved in the business is suspicious. This is a variant on the terms “ownership” and “controlling interest”. 2 years ago the legislature passed a law loosening up the requirements a bit in the interest of encouraging the licensees to succeed. Apparently, the LCB didn’t climb on board.

Willie Nelson, and the Bob Marley family among others, have entered into licensing agreements for their brands with WA growers (and other sates). They don’t actually grow or package product, but they specify the characteristics of what is sold under their name. This is standard intellectual property licensing very common in all businesses. Now, Willie Nelson is not going to acquire WA residence and disclose his financial arrangements and apply for a license to grow weed in Eastern WA to sell his product in WA. (In fact, Nelson is notorious in that he’ll smoke anything anytime, and is oblivious to the subtleties of strains, cleanliness, or origin). Instead, his licensing company specifies what they want to produce and enter into an agreement with a grower to do the work. In exchange, his company gets a cut of the revenue from the grower who uses his name on the label.

Apparently the LCB is trying to enforce their true party of interest rules on these situations, claiming that Willie holds some controlling interest in the licensee’s business. This situation is extremely well-covered in US and state laws no matter what the product be it liquor, tobacco, soft drinks, or frozen corn. It’s standard business practice.

As I point out frequently, the legislature is very friendly to the cannabis industry, and to have the regulatory authority going off in their own direction is quite annoying to them. Not a good position to be in for the LCB.

Back in Q

I’m back at Quartzsite for a little while. The peak of the crowds has passed. And, I get the sunrises and sunsets.

Washington Cannabis in the Legislature

I’ve been watching the committee hearings concerning the pot laws in Washington. Five years into this thing, the elected reps seem to be getting it and are actually handling the issues in a rational way.

There’s recognition that legalization is working, the sky hasn’t fallen, a number of horribles haven’t happened, the business is thriving, and the tax revenue is flowing into the state. Almost all members of the House Commerce and Gaming Committee are on board, but two new members will need to study up a bit on the topic. The news is almost as good over in the Senate.

Some reps are bragging about how well things are going in Washington, though I can personally attest they didn’t feel that way a couple of years ago. Now, even with a majority in the legislature willing to vote for changes, what usually happens is the session comes to an end before the bills can be voted on, pushing everything off for a year. I’m thinking those bills will have a higher priority this year.

Vicki Christopherson of the Washington Cannabusiness Association pointed out in her public testimony that the laws, the rules, and the industry itself has been governed and operated under an umbrella of fear, fear of the feds coming in and wreaking havoc. This fear can be seen everywhere, and it’s time (after 5 years) to begin cleaning out the rubbish. This applies to all other states as well.

Chris Thompson, bless his heart, represents the Liquor and Cannabis Board before the legislature, and he’s had a very bad week. Someone declared war on the LCB, and both the lawmakers and the industry are proposing laws to rein in their behavior, if not power. The LCB has been enforcing their rules far too strictly, and the reps have been flooded with complaints from their constituents about the LCB tactics. Some of the comments from the committee members, which are the oversight body of the LCB, are “There is a gotcha mentality in the LCB”, “Your rules are ticky-tack”, “There’s a culture of gotcha”, “There are cultural problems in the LCB”. Chris Thompson’s defense was “They’ll blame me, or the LCB, or you if something goes wrong”. Fear of the feds. Cover your ass. A new committee member asked him if he’d be happy if they granted him legal immunity, and he happily said yes. Wrong answer, of course.

It seems that a few licensees have been complaining about their competitors to the LCB, knowing that this will subject their opponent to a great deal of hassle, including a good chance of them losing their license. The LCB says they are complaint driven, and don’t have time to work out compliance issues/questions. Wrong answer again.

The committee is thinking that since the basics are working so well, and this has been a big experiment that needs time to mature, that effort should be directed towards education, listening, and adjusting the rules rather than assassinating thriving businesses. The LCB was reminded the committee can make laws that achieve that desire.

Law Enforcement is obligated to appear in these hearings, but their time-worn message of prohibition is getting old. One rep felt she had to remind the State Patrol that “marijuana is legal now in this state”. Personally, I think LE everywhere is having real problems getting with the notion they enforce (or stop enforcing) the laws the legislature sets.

So that’s my impression of the tone of the legislature. The current laws and rules were set up in a different time, the industry has risen to the challenge and succeeded, things need to be fixed, and it’s looking like government itself is causing the problems now. And, it looks like the feds are too disorganized to actually do anything, so the state is in charge. Yay.

I’ll write more about the specific bills over the next few days.

The Border

The man-child’s bullshit about a crisis at the southern border is, of course, fantasy. Yesterday I went down to San Luis, AZ to see if anything looked different. San Luis is a full-service port of entry 20 miles south of Yuma, always quite busy with trucks and workers mainly serving the agriculture industry. Busy, yes, but that’s normal this time of year.

The limited crossing at Los Algodones serves pedestrians and one lane of automobiles, but not trucks. All is normal there.

Last week a largish group of people used a nearby tunnel to cross into the US and surrender to Border Patrol, and a toddler fell off a ladder and suffered minor injuries. While this type of event usually gets local news coverage, they are not especially remarkable. Most of the fence is the modern type, but maintenance on the older parts is poor, so these things can happen.

If there is a crisis or emergency, it’s the lack of bureaucrats to process perfectly legal asylum seekers. I saw no sign of military, or even national guard presence, but the Yuma area is a military area anyway so activity wouldn’t necessarily stand out as unusual.

I can’t see an emergency around here, and I haven’t heard anything from elsewhere along the border that’s out of the ordinary. But then, you knew that…

Back in Yuma

Steve and Sandy arrived in Quartzsite, bringing friends Dave and Shelley with them. We all sat around for a week or so while the tent show opened and the RVs poured in. I really like parking in the quiet desert and doing things in the town, but when the mobs come rolling in, I don’t like it all.

I had a spot that was close-in, relatively easy to find, and was big enough for 5 or 6 rigs, and had been sitting there for about 3 weeks. Just as my friends were arriving, my neighbor came over to announce she was expecting about 40 rigs. I didn’t think she had staked out enough real estate, but we worked out a boundary line that she was satisfied with. Now to make things even more awkward, these 40 rigs were all filled with families, with 2 kids and a dog or two in each one. Home-schooling full-timing RVrs. Not my idea of a quiet time in Q.

It worked out OK, but I was anxious to get out of there. The highway was backed up with traffic, it was impossible to get into restaurants and stores. In about 10 days all will be back to normal, but here in Yuma it is practically empty. Much saner.

I had a good time visiting folk, but I’m not going to be in Q next year during the show…

Washington Pot

It’s been 6 years since the cannabis laws were written in Washington state (Colorado, too) and like all man-made things, some maintenance is needed. The legislature convened yesterday, and I’ll be watching what they do this year.

The first bill filed deals with the oldest bone of contention, distance setbacks of cannabis businesses from places where children congregate. A couple of anti-pot representatives, there aren’t many left, continue to try to expand the provisions with the goal of keeping any cannabis business out of their community. There haven’t been any issues with this provision anywhere, except that existing laws specifying 1000 feet from schools and parks can be quite difficult to work with. I expect very few will be in support of expanding the provisions, likely not even getting out of committee.

As an aside, the committee responsible for all things cannabis in Washington tends to favor the cannabis industry. Not because they necessarily like cannabis, but because they like the revenue that’s being generated.

Washington has always been a loner of all states in not allowing “home grows”, but this year a bill was submitted to correct that. Residential marijuana agriculture, as it’s been renamed, has been professionally written and has good support in committee, so it will likely pass this year. Growing for personal use will be allowed, with a limit of 6 plants per person, 15 plants per household. Done right, those limits can produce a lot of cannabis, but relatively few people are any good at this. It won’t present any problems, and the impact on taxes or the market will be trivial. I wish the hobbyists good luck, I’m glad they won’t be going to jail, but it’s a lot simpler to go to the neighborhood store.

Washington will, no doubt, be modernizing it’s testing requirements for cannabis to better align with other states. Cannabis is by far the most-tested of any agricultural crop in all states, and Washington will be adding pesticide testing. This will add a considerable cost to the products, but that has proven acceptable in other states.

In coming days more bills will be submitted for consideration.

Fox News

Wow, I’m surprised. Fox News has run an opinion piece by Tom Basile on marijuana legalization, in which he invents a typical Fox conspiracy theory that the Democrats are hypocrites for ignoring negative studies on the use of pot. Specifically, he claims the Dems are getting money from “Big Pot”, even though the science says it’s harmful.

First off, until this recent election cycle the Democrats (and Republicans) have been completely off the record regarding cannabis, which was sometimes frustrating. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA, but no more) was basically a hero for devoting years of effort to protect the medical marijuana industry from the DOJ. Roger Stone was the source of the money for legalization efforts across the country, and we assume that to the extent that Trump had a notion on the subject, it came from Stone.

The “big pot” argument is Kevin Sabet’s current effort to fight any and all pro-cannabis efforts. Usually described as “a person who has never held a real job”, Sabet has been the go-to guy for anti-cannabis efforts for years, but his arguments have repeatedly crumbled as they were analyzed. He’s been a great foil, though, when the media need a false-equivalency source to quote. His organization did (with substantial help from a big pharma business) manage to defeat the Arizona legalization initiative, but he has 42 losses to his credit.

Big pot doesn’t exist. In fact, every state has laws that strongly discourage large companies, and few companies are going to get very big as long as it’s illegal at the federal level and they can’t use banking services.

As far as ignoring studies, robust scientific studies can’t be done because they have to be done with federal money, which is illegal. There are many projects out there, but they are small and almost always quite flawed, no matter what they show. The claim that cannabis can cure cancer is just as ridiculous as the claim that it causes psychosis in teenagers. Or it causes low sperm count. These stories have been around since the 1960’s, and none have stood up to the scientific process because the analysis can’t be done.

If there is a conspiracy to ignore negative results, there is also one to ignore positive results because neither have the backing of good science. That’s why almost all states have on their books a plea for reliable research, and the debate in all states include frustration that information is missing. My approach is to discount all “studies”, no matter what they conclude.

An interesting thing happened in the last election, which might have prompted the Fox fiction writers to go to work. It was unorganized, but a surprising number of politicians who came out in favor of legalization got elected. And they were mainly Democrats. Previously, candidates who expressed support usually got beat because they were labeled “pot heads”. Even the pro-pot organizations are still figuring out how this happened.

Fox hasn’t been very interested in the topic until now, so be careful what you see from them on the cannabis topic.

Quartzsite

I’m back in Q for a while. Trump’s shutdown has no impact on us here in the LTVA (Long Term Visitor Area), except the BLM isn’t collecting data or money. I dumped on the way in today, got water, and the trash bins are being serviced. Business as usual here as well as in town, and at the 14-day places.

The bad news is that the number of people is increasing fast. It is the town of Quartzsite’s one month of money coming in.

California Pot

A year in now, the situation in CA is mixed. The state system was reasonable, given it was California, but to have 500-something towns and counties come up with their own rules, sometimes just as complicated, turns the ability to do business into a joke.

Those with an infinite amount of money and lawyers are clearly up and running just fine, but the many thousands of “little people” are still trying to navigate the licensing systems. Meanwhile, the illegal market thrives as it always has.

Los Angeles just recently licensed a few stores, and looks forward to 400. There are a few thousand non-store businesses to license (growers, processors, etc), and the city just recently staffed up to 10 people. Think of LA as about the size of a western state, with the rules about as thorough, then add the state’s requirements.

But there’s hope. Attorneys in CA are becoming very vocal about the legal mess that’s been created so it’s likely something will change.

Yuma for a while

I’m back in Yuma for a change of scenery and access to better food. Quartzsite eateries are very, very mundane.

As usual I’m at the VFW/BLM spot, but this time the WINS (an RV travel club) are here, nearly filling the place up. Every year I run into them at least once as we have similar routes in the SW. The hassle is that I have my solar panels set up for a direction that I couldn’t match because of space. Extra work.

The Trump shutdown has minimal impact at the Q parking areas, except now there is no garbage pickup, and all the dumpsters were overflowing. Folk can use the county’s transfer station (about 14 miles away) but it isn’t set up to handle everybody. As a rule, RV’rs are kind to the environment and gladly use the facilities provided. Now they’ll be going into town and hunting down the merchants’ trash bins.

Or, stashing their garbage in the desert somewhere…