I-502 passed, marijuana is legal, so what now? The state has less than 11 months to figure out how to grow, sell and regulate the drug, and it's starting from scratch.
More than 400 people packed Seattle City Hall last night to give the state liquor board, which will oversee industry, some advice on what to do.
Most of the people at the meeting, including some members of the liquor board like Chris Marr, can't believe this has happened. "Certainly when I was watching Cream in the Fillmore years ago, I never dreamed I'd end up being here in this set of circumstances," Marr joked.
The meeting was part celebration, part nuts and bolts advice. Board chair Sharon Foster even got into the giggling when reminding people they only had two minutes to speak. "If you can do it in less, you get a brownie point from us," Foster said as the crowd burst into laughter. "You know I did not say brownie. I said 'a brownie point.'"
Once the crowd had its fill of snickering and giggling and double entendres, the board finally started getting some advice on what to do. The state isn't reinventing the wheel - it's inventing the wheel. No state has done this before. There is no road map. Some of the unanswered questions for the state is who can grow, how much can be grown, what kind of bud is best.
John Eskola spoke for small medical marijuana growers who want in on this industry. "We're going to grow the best weed we can," he said. "We have been for the last 25 years. You need to bring us in. We need to be part of this." Eskola nearly choked up near the end of his comments. "It's very emotional thing for me," he said. "It's been a war for 40 years. The war's over. We won."
Most people that spoke advocated for smaller grow-operations, with an emphasis on family-owned farms. They say it will provide better quality. They also believe small operations might not find their way on to the federal radar as easily. As one farmer said, "I think there should be little to no restrictions at all. There are thousands of people in this business. America was built on the small businessman. The entrepreneur. We don't need any big conglomerates coming in here and taking over what we've worked so hard for."
The state is in the process of hiring consultants to make sure it sets this industry up properly. It will hire a "pot czar" to oversee the operations. Prices are expected to start around $12 a gram. The state expects to sell about 187,000 pounds of pot a year - that's potentially at $2 billion industry.