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APPROVE HB 1236

Should Washington allow for the private cultivation of cannabis?

As the owner of The Herbery, a regulated cannabis retail store in Vancouver, and board president of the Washington CannaBusiness Association (WACA), I am often asked if Washington’s current ban on the private cultivation for cannabis should remain in place. The first thing I always say is that our current state regulations already allow registered medical patients to grow up to six plants at a time for their personal use, so there is a version of “home grow” for those who need it in place. The second thing I usually say is that changing state law to allow for the general public – patients and recreational users, alike – to grow cannabis at home for personal use has just not been a priority. We’ve had bigger fish to fry – creating a regulated marketplace for medical and recreational cannabis, ensuring products aren’t sold to minors and supporting a highly-regulated marketplace to assure a very skeptical federal administration that we continue to honor the tenets set forth by voters in Initiative 502 and the Cole Memorandum.

The bottom line is that for now, the nascent but maturing nature of our marketplace has given us the confidence to take an official “neutral” position on efforts to legalize the private cultivation of cannabis in our state.

If you scroll through our blog and Google News, you’ll see several comments by members, myself and WACA spokespeople sharing concerns about private cultivation of cannabis. Our past opposition was based on the context of the times – a very new and unstable marketplace that required significant regulatory and legislative action in order to remain viable and an actively hostile Attorney General, to name just a few. How could the licensed industry thrive in the spotlight of regulation, when non-license holders could still grow in the shadows?

But we’re seven years in. And, just as the fears that many people hold about cannabis have not come to fruition (e.g. reefer madness), our association has continued to evolve. We are a democratically-run organization and our members set our legislative priorities. Today, the 2019 Legislative Session is featuring critical bills to support compliance reform that holds the LCB more accountable, allows for out-of-state investment in Washington’s cannabis businesses and the talent that supports our industry, our marketplace (Washington is the only recreational legal cannabis state that does not allow some type of recreational home grow for adult use), updated rules for making disease claims and other important cannabis-related legislation. These bills are and will continue to be our priority. But for now, when friends, patients, customers, reporters and elected officials inquire about our position on home grows, I’ll say “We’re neutral.”

I look forward to our shared work ahead to help make sure our state continues to lead the world by supporting a safe, quality-controlled and regulated cannabis marketplace that keeps products out of the hands of minors.

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Our priorities: A safe marketplace that keeps pot out of the hands of minors

We live in challenging times and supporting a legal marketplace for cannabis is now just one of many arenas in which robust political debates are being held. As an industry, and on behalf of our members, our priority always is to support a safe, quality-controlled and regulated marketplace that keeps marijuana out of the hands of minors. With that priority in mind – and against the backdrop of a White House administration which is actively questioning the validity and safety of the movement to legalize cannabis  – the Washington CannaBusiness Association is opposed to allowing the general public to grow cannabis for recreational use at home. Cannabis legalization occurred under strict assurances that the industry would be highly-regulated and deviating from our current state administered control policies, at this time, could be harmful to our long term efforts as individuals and as an industry.  With the spotlight growing brighter, and with the choices for quality-controlled, regulated products for responsible adults expanding exponentially, this may be the worst time to loosen restrictions.

We advocated for and continue to support allowing patients with the authorization of a medical professional to grow cannabis at home for their own personal use.

President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions are, at best, skeptical of legal cannabis marketplaces and can be, I think, fairly described as outright opposed to the concept, despite overwhelming popular support. We may be tired of antiquated “Reefer Madness” fears, out of step with both our experience and popular opinion, but that they exist means there is still work to be done. Failure to recognize this reality has real policy implications. An effort in Olympia earlier this year to reform our existing regulations to allow for more out-of-state investors to partner with licensed cannabis businesses in Washington to help small businesses compete was abruptly cut short when Attorney General Jeff Sessions voiced his opposition to legal marijuana. Regulations concerning advertising were also significantly enhanced this year in order to reduce any possibility that businesses were targeting minors or working across state lines. Clearly, the new administration’s hostility toward legal cannabis is affecting our state’s marketplace.

We are a democratically-run industry association and we have polled our members regarding their position on allowing for recreational home grows. The message from our members – producers, processors and retailers of all sizes - was clear: now is not the time to loosen regulations to allow for just anyone to grow cannabis at home. While we are supportive of the state’s current study to determine potential ways to regulate home grows – the study was included in the omnibus cannabis bill that we advocated for in Olympia earlier this year – we do not believe that home grows are currently in alignment with our top priority of keeping pot out of the hands of minors and shutting down the black market.

At a time when the White House is looking for any excuse to crack down on legal marketplaces, we should be refining the strong regulations that are already in place, not loosening them up.

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Q13: Should Washingtonians be allowed to grow recreational pot at home? State wants you to weigh in

"If you ask licensed pot growers and retail owners, many of them are opposed.

'Our members are very concerned about the possibility of loosening regulations to allow the general public to grow cannabis at home,' Aaron Pickus said.

Pickus is speaking for The Washington Cannabusiness Association, which represents about 70 marijuana companies. The groups says they are more worried about the feds than any financial impact to the industry.

'Being cautious of what the federal government might do with the current administration that is very skeptical of legal marketplaces,' Pickus said."

Watch the whole thing.

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Everett Herald: Study considers making it legal to grow marijuana at home

“We’re still a very, very young industry. Our priority is supporting the success of the current regulatory framework,” said Aaron Pickus, spokesman for the cannabis group whose 70 members include marijuana retailers, processors and growers. “Generally speaking, we are erring on the side of implementing what already exists before we open it up further.”

Candice Bock, government relations advocate for AWC, said it is a difficult law for cities to enforce. And they are concerned legal home grows can still be a source of conflict among neighbors.

”We take a very cautious approach to home grows and I don’t know that we will be able to support a recreational home grow operation.”

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The Stranger: Small Pot Farms Are Getting Screwed The State Made Rules to Help Boutique Growers - But They're Not Working

"To [Vashon Velvet owner and WACA board member Susie] Gress, it shouldn't matter how much total weight she is producing. State regulations allow boutique breweries and wineries to turn a profit even when they are producing a tiny fraction of what large companies produce. Will Washington's legal marketplace be able to support tiny producers like her? That question is still up in the air."

...

"Aaron Pickus, a spokesperson for the Washington CannaBusiness Association, a trade group Gress is a member of, said they are in favor of the WSLCB adopting a rule like Colorado's, which allows producers to increase their tier.

'Tier's 1s can be successful, but they are very much constrained by the artificial limit,' Pickus said. 'We should allow them to grow and compete based on the popularity of their product and not just based on the license they originally applied for.'"

Read the whole thing.

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The Stranger: Washington's Legal Weed Industry Pays Hundreds of Millions in Wages

--Click here for the full report-- 

"The report, conducted by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP), found that more than 10,000 people were employed by legal weed businesses in 2016, and legal pot businesses paid almost $300 million in wages during the industry's first two and a half years."

"...the Washington CannaBusiness Association (a trade group of licensed pot businesses), explained that the report showed that legal weed is 'clearly already a major economic force in Washington. Our hope is that this employment report will help demonstrate that our industry is a viable, safe, and well-regulated component of our state's diverse economy.'" - The Stranger

Read the whole story.

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Columbian: Time to Act on Marijuana

"Members of Congress should seek to protect industries in states that allow marijuana use and to avoid a costly and counterproductive legal battle between those states and the federal government."

Read the whole "In Our View" editorial.

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Puget Sound Business Journal: Cannabis regulations contribute to thriving market in Washington

"Business owners don’t often proclaim the value of a highly regulated marketplace, but Washington state’s legal cannabis industry is thriving because our state’s leaders are committed to upholding the direction of voters in creating a safe marketplace that keeps pot out of the hands of minors. That isn’t to say that our current system is perfect — but each year we continue to refine laws and regulations to reflect the realities of a nascent industry.

It is fitting that the Washington CannaBusiness Association (WACA) — the regulated industry’s professional association of cannabis producers, processors and retailers — is helping lead our state’s delegation to Washington, D.C. this month, five years after the passage of Initiative 502. When voters approved a legal cannabis marketplace in 2012, no other state had a legal market for cannabis. Today, eight states have legalized cannabis for adult recreational use, including the entire West Coast. Patients and general consumers spent $6.7 billion on legal cannabis in 2016, according to an Arcview Market Research report."

Read the entire guest column by WACA member Andy Brassington.

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Marijuana Business Daily: New Washington state cannabis regulations reflect concern about federal threat

"Aaron Pickus, a spokesman for the Washington Cannabusiness Association, didn’t want to overstate the regulators’ focus on protecting the state’s marijuana industry. But he conceded 'there was certainly a change in concern about what the federal government may or may not do regarding the legal cannabis marketplace following the comments made by (the Trump administration).'"

Read the whole thing.

 

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The Stranger: Trump Signals That He Wants to Restart the War on Drugs

"Aaron Pickus, a spokesperson for the Washington CannaBusiness Association, said the trade group is advising its members to closely follow the state's laws. 'Right now, we are emphasizing how important it is to make sure you are following the rules as set by Washington State,' Pickus said. 'Make sure you are dotting all your i's and crossing all your t's and following best practices to make sure that minors aren't getting into your store.'"

Read the whole thing.

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KIRO: Battle Over Legal Pot

KIRO's Senior Political Reporter Essex Porter interviews WACA board member and Ponder retail license holder John Branch.

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Seattle Times: For Washington’s pot industry, out-of-state owners could supply a lifeline — or invite trouble

"[WACA Boardmember] Susan Gress owns a small pot farm on Vashon Island. She sees the out-of-state ownership bills in the state Legislature, with bipartisan sponsors, as a lifeline, a way for her business to grow and survive. 'The funds we could use to create more jobs and tax income for our state instead will go to states like Colorado and California,' said Gress, a former editor at Pulp & Paper International magazine. At a recent hearing in Olympia she told lawmakers that out-of-state investors have approached her but want a stake in her farm that state law now prohibits."

Read the whole thing.

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Seattle Metropolitan: Vashon Velvet Grows on Island Time

"While the passage of I-502 greenlit million-dollar investments into major production facilities throughout the state, it also opened doors for scrappy upstarts like Vashon Velvet—the company [WACA board member Susie] Gress founded in 2013 with her daughter, Ivy, and sister, Kay Rice."

Read the whole thing.

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KING 5: White House suggests enforcing federal marijuana laws

"[Washington Attorney General] Ferguson, who also led the states in challenging Trump's executive order on immigration, noted that he and Gov. Jay Inslee, both Democrats, previously were prepared to defend the state's legal marijuana system against any efforts by President Barack Obama's administration to shut it down. Ferguson and Inslee sent a letter last week to new Attorney General Jeff Sessions to request a meeting on the topic. [WACA board member] John Branch owns Ponder near Union and 24th Avenue in Seattle. He's been selling marijuana there since September 2015. 'I think undoing the will of the people of Washington state would be a big lift,' said Branch."

Watch the whole thing.

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Stranger: Gold Leaf Farm: The Closest Thing You Can Find to Organic Weed in Seattle

"[WACA board member] Brad Douglass, the scientific director for Bellevue's Werc Shop cannabis lab and a proponent of organic cannabis, said Clean Green certification is a good first step for the industry. 'I think what they're doing is good and useful, but it isn't a stand-in for a state regulated or even a federally regulated program,' Douglass said. 'It doesn't have the teeth that a state-regulated program would have.'"

Read the whole thing.

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The Stranger: Washington State Could Be (and Should Be) the Capital of Pot Research

"Washington State—flush with millions of dollars' worth of cannabis, a thriving biomedical research industry, and a long history of agricultural research—is well positioned to start answering questions about the world's biggest cash crop. Scientists know surprisingly little about the most efficient ways to grow, process, and breed the plant."

...

"'On our end, we thought the research license was a critical component of the promise of I-502 [the law that legalized recreational use in Washington State]—a regulated market of safe products that were developed with better quality than what was available in the medical market,' said [WACA Boardmember] Brad Douglass, the scientific director at Bellevue cannabis lab the Werc Shop."

Read the whole thing.

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KUOW: Marijuana world: Maybe Attorney General Jeff Sessions won't be so bad

"[WACA Board-member and Vashon Velvet owner Susie] Gress and her fellow business owners don’t seem too worried about a federal crackdown. Partly because of the cost and resources that would be involved, and partly because voters seem to be moving in the opposite direction. Eight more states including California legalized marijuana in some form in November.

Rep. Denny Heck (D-Olympia) said support for legalization has transcended party politics in the four years he’s served in Congress."

Read the whole thing.

 

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Seattle Channel City Inside/Out: Marijuana lounges

Vicki Christophersen, Washington CannaBusiness Executive Director, is featured in Seattle Channel's premier public affairs show discussing the association's support for giving local jurisdictions the opportunity to create regulations allowing for marijuana consumption lounges. Christophersen's interview is featured beginning at the 1:52 minute mark. 

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Marijuana Business Daily: Private Washington state fund to boost medical cannabis access

"Marijuana retailers in Washington state could see an uptick in business thanks to a proposed fund that would help foot the bill for low-income medical marijuana patients.

The idea is the brainchild of the 70-member Washington CannaBusiness Association (WACA), which hopes to have the fund up and running by spring 2017, according to the News Tribune. The fund is intended to expand patient access to MMJ."

Read the whole thing.

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