More than 150 attend Everett’s hearing on legal pot industry
EVERETT - Key questions remain for people hoping to jump into the unprecedented recreational marijuana industry after last week’s public hearing at Comcast Arena on the state’s implementation of Initiative 502, which legalized the production, processing and sale of pot for adults.
The public hearing in Everett drew more than 150 people.
A few people said the state Liquor Control Board’s marijuana tax rates will drive people away from retailers. Others want to know how they will be protected from the federal government, which still considers marijuana an illegal drug.
Municipalities want to know how they may address where to put recreational marijuana stores.
Shawn Scoleri, who manages Canna RX, a medical marijuana dispensary in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, warned that high marijuana tax rates will continue to feed the black market.
Recreational marijuana’s after-tax price has to be about $10 to $12 a gram — comparable to the untaxed medical marijuana market — for retailers to succeed, Scoleri said. Prices any higher than that won’t make a dent in the black market, he added.
“Washington marijuana smokers are finicky about their marijuana, but the thing is we can get it anywhere,” Scoleri said.
Small cities are concerned about the cost of enforcing recreational marijuana operators and the uncertainty in the state’s law language.
The control board needs clearer language that says marijuana operators must abide by local regulations, said Grant Weed, a municipal attorney whose clients include the city of Snohomish.
Lynnwood planner Gloria Rivera asked if a city has to allow recreational retailers if there’s no appropriate locations for them. The control board’s answer was no.
Outside the meeting hall, hopeful marijuana entrepreneurs networked with packaging companies, security firms and other hopeful retailers.
Tom, who declined to give his last name, was chatting with the owner of a private security firm. Tom hopes to set up a production company on his family’s farm in central Snohomish County, but every step is met with roadblocks from Snohomish County officials.
“There’s no kind ears (in Snohomish County,” Tom said.
If his farm were in King County, Tom believes he’d have no problems.
Other entrepreneurs currently running medical marijuana retails shops said they faced big challenges in siting their stores because of local zoning regulations.
Most of the recreational marijuana operators will come from the ranks of medical marijuana dispensary owners, predicted Sean Green, who runs a Shoreline medical marijuana dispensary and wants to open a recreational production site in Spokane.
At the meeting, Green gave a rousing speech proclaiming the state’s marijuana industry will become a top export.
There are hurdles ahead, both perceived and real. The federal Drug Enforcement Agency raided several medical marijuana dispensaries last month, confiscating plants.
The federal government still considers marijuana an illegal Schedule I drug. Any protection from the federal government is speculation, control board chair Sharon Foster told one speaker.
“So I have no protection from the feds? Oh...” the speaker responded almost in dumbfounded dismay.
The control board held five public hearings last week across the state.
The public’s input will be used to finalize the rulebook on recreational marijuana. The board is expected to adopt the rules on Sept. 14 and open a 30-day window for license applications two days later.
Licenses will be granted Jan. 1, control board I-502 implementation project manager Randy Simmons said.
Retailers will be able to operate from 8 a.m. to midnight. Marijuana package advertising cannot be attractive to children, and advertising will be heavily restricted.
If a retailer has three incidents where people under 21 are in the store, the store’s license will be revoked, Simmons said.
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