Sticky Rules on Pot Brought Up At Hearing in Spokane

By Paige Browning

Tuesday night in Spokane about 450 people showed up to a hearing about the state’s marijuana market.  A handful of speakers were wary of the law, while the vast majority supported pot legalization but shared advice and concerns about the ground-breaking pot market.  
There was a slight stench of marijuana in the lobby.  People trickled into their seats to hear from the Washington State Liquor Control Board who is in charge of implementing the sale of recreational marijuana.  Liquor Board Chair Sharon Foster acknowledged this in new territory for them, which is why they are hosting six forums.
[Foster] “The big interest for me was to see if we would have this much interest east of the cascades as we did west of the cascades.  I’m very pleased to see all of you.”
Liquor Board hearing on marijuana in Spokane. By Paige BrowningWhen the public comments began, the biggest question was how many people will be able to sell marijuana, and the notion that the state should avoid a corporate-style marijuana market.  Speaker Kate Peaker said she wants to be a grower and processer.
[Peaker] “Will there be a cap on how many strains you can grow, and how much of each, so that not any one business becomes too big, and takes over.  I know a lot of people have said it before, and I just urge you to allow as many people to obtain a license as possible, letting people grow a few strains, specialized, to guarantee that this state has the highest quality product available.  So I thank you very much for this.  Thank you.”
Speakers also asked whether federal officials would come shut down the marijuana market, whether hemp production will also be legal, and gave the argument that growers and processers should be one in the same. 
A handful of people had worries about legalized marijuana in general.  Linda Thompson with the Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council said she is concerned about youth access to marijuana.
[Thompson] “We have already seen a severe decline in the perception of harm among our kids when we passed medical marijuana.  We are asking that we will participate in the rule making around restricting advertising, also mandatory responsible vendor training.  We want to know that our vendors are trained, they know how to give out the product, they know that people who are getting it are going to be safe when they’re using it.”
Thompson also said she would like to see a limit on the hours of sales, and a ban on internet sales.
The question of where exactly pot will be sold has been temporarily answered by the city of Spokane.  The city created a proposed map of pot retail areas this week.
With four out of six hearings behind them, the liquor board goes to Mount Vernon and Yakima next.  The pot market needs to be in place by December, according to Washington Initiative-502.  This short timeline has lit a fire under liquor board members to start finding growers as soon as possible.
Copyright 2013 Spokane Public Radio

Photo: Liquor Board hearing on marijuana in Spokane. By Paige Browning
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