WA Legislative session

This afternoon I watched a legislative committee in Olympia take comments from the public on cannabis bills. The topic was home-grown cannabis plants, completely illegal in WA right now. Despite that it should sail right through the lawmaking process, it was an opportunity for those against to speak up.

My observations have been that the committee is strongly cannabis-friendly, and readily accepts alternative views. But, they have no interest in debating cannabis itself, only the bill on the table in front of them.

Opposition was an organized group of 5 people from Kennewick, a five-hour drive to Olympia. Their message was “Protect the children. It smells bad. The smell makes children sick”. The committee has heard this for twenty-some years. Comments were limited by the chair to 1 minute, an unreasonable amount of time, but that’s the power of the chair. So 5 people drove from Kennewick to Olympia and spent the night for 5 minutes total of testimony. And they blew it on think of the children.

I expect most of the routine cannabis bills to pass this year…

Washington Legislature

Like I did last year, I’ll be watching what the legislature does with cannabis. They did quite poorly last year in doing anything, though some could see it as an advantage. At any rate, here they go again.

Washington does not allow any personal, or home, production of the cannabis plant, making it unique amongst the legal states. There is a bill, and I’m sure there will be far too much discussion over this simple thing, slowing down the work on the other topics.

The state unwisely found itself in a dispute with the vendor of the tracking system they used. Unable to switch vendors, they are doing without for now. This “seed to sale” system was regarded as the backbone of the regulators, and we have yet to see the impact from it’s loss. I can see the lawmakers questioning the veracity of the regulators and their requests for improvements.

Meanwhile, it’s a bumper crop in Washington, with dropping wholesale prices and production far exceeding demand. Washington has no limits on the number of growers, relying on the market to find it’s level. Overproduction in Washington is not on the scale of Oregon and California, but there are a lot of growers that have to get something to pay the bills, and without a tracking system. They don’t have an incentive to hang out in Olympia and make noise.

Then, there’s California, as in, “How about we wait a bit and see how California does?” That one can be used for almost everything cannabis-related the lawmakers see.

I’m not expecting much.

Quartzsite for a while

Back to Q today. It rained yesterday afternoon, the first I’ve seen all season besides some stray raindrops a month or so ago. But the sun is out again and temperatures will be warming.

Peak will occur in a few days, with heavy traffic and big crowds at the bazaars.

I’ll be here for the show, then likely Yuma again.

Vermont will be No. 9

Vermont will become the ninth state to legalize cannabis. They will be unusual as they are the first state to pass legislation rather than succumb to the direct votes of citizens.

They are also unusual in that they legalize possession of 1 ounce or less, and allow home growing, but not sales. They totally bypass the regulation and taxation thing, leaving it for the black market to handle distribution. That approach mimics Washington DC’s which fell into it through a bureaucratic blunder, and it seems to work.

The thinking, though, is that sooner or later they will see the need for some control over the market.

The pot industry and banks

Banks, being federally regulated, are prohibited from dealing with businesses that deal with cannabis, right? Not quite. Guidelines (not rules or laws) for banks permit banking cannabis customers provided they exercise rather draconian supervision over their customers. And some smaller community banks and credit unions have stepped up to the tasks involved to provide some basic services in the interest of public safety.

Most of the industry in Washington have banking services, at least to permit them to pay their taxes to the state without driving to Olympia every day with a car load of cash. In fact, it’s managed to work well enough that the state doesn’t accept cash payments any more. These guidelines from the fed specify what the banks have to monitor to permit this, and those guidelines point to the Cole memo. Which has now been rescinded.

While some states (WA, OR, NV, CO) don’t face extreme obstacles in moving cash around to pay taxes, California’s problem is much bigger. And Alaska and Hawaii face having to move tax payments through federal air space and waters.

Rescinding the Cole memo is really stupid. The few banks willing to absorb the hassle (for a price, of course) are actually the eyes and ears for the feds for “suspicious” activity. Without them, the feds are not in a position to do the monitoring of the cannabis industry.

Unfortunately, the solution to the conundrums lies with Congress, and then the executive without a grip on reality. The states are doing a damn fine job right now, and they should be able to continue their efforts without the feds interfering.

Rescinding the Cole Memo

Everyone remotely associated with the cannabis industry is aware of the Cole Memo, and Federal Laws, which havene’t changed a bit. Session’s action has been expected from the beginning, so no one can say it’s a surprise or an emergency.

Besides a big jump on the caseload of the federal judiciary, very little will change. Many state legislatures are convening this week, and many have cannabis bills in process. I expect that some votes will change in fear of DOJ action.

Personally, I think the industry was getting a little accustomed to a situation deemed safer than it was, and it was losing part of itself. This move might ignite the people to get back some of the paranoia and suspicion that has served well for decades.

Back in Yuma

Quartzsite is picking up fast in terms of people. Interestingly, the number of vendors is down by half. Rice Ranch is completely vacant. All the blank space is weird this time of year.

I’m in Yuma for a few days to pick up medicines, get an oil change, and go to a real grocery store. And grab a supply of fruit. Then back to Q for all the action.

First Day of Retail in CA

It seems to have gone well in CA today. About 90 stores were open for business, which isn’t bad at all. Many more will be opening over the next weeks or so.

Prices are about 20-25% higher than WA, CO, and OR, and a tad higher than Nevada. This was expected, and prices will be dropping for the next several months as more producers and retailers come online.

I was satisfied with the news coverage that was much more substantial than when CO and WA opened up. Instead of the bad puns, jokes, and misinformation, today we heard terms like “inventory”, “taxes”. and “supply chain”. And, in California there are actually plenty of politicians happy to do the ribbon cutting for your store.

Not every place is going to have stores, either because localities have banned the product entirely, or the local government hasn’t reached a decision yet. Los Angeles couldn’t get their thing together fast enough, and, disappointingly, San Francisco can’t get their thing going until later this week. I’m 10 miles from the CA border in Arizona, and the nearest retail shop is 140 miles away, 130 miles to the nearest shop in Nevada. That’s unlikely to change in the near future.

Meanwhile, up in Northern California, a culture is dieing…

CA Legalization Day

The state of California steps into the cannabis market Monday, by request of it’s citizens. I don’t expect nay significant changes in how the current market is working: the stores exist, the supply is completely over the top, and the distribution network has existed for decades. No one in California is going to run out of pot.

If the state screws this up, they’ll be the new guy that doesn’t know what they are doing.

But I don’t expect things to go south. The new market is coming up on schedule, as far as I know within budget, and with no show-stopping court cases or scandals. Lori Ajax was named the person-in-charge by the governor to develop the regulations while the laws were changing, and she has lasted through it all. The first legal weed sold January 1 in California will be because of Lori Ajax.

Watch for her in the inevitable media show that I’m sure is coming.

There’s a breeze

The wind kicked up today in Quartzsite. Not at all unusual, what’s unusual is that it’s been calm for a long time. Then it gets cold, freezing at night, for the next week.

I went down to Yuma last week for a few days, then came back up to meet Steve and Sandy who were passing through. It’s still relatively quiet in town, but after christmas things will pick up fast.

Tomorrow I’ll move into one of the bigger areas, my “usual” spot.