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Packed crowd attends forum on budding new industry of recreational pot

An overflow crowd wanted to give the WA State Liquor Control Board their ideas about the best ways to implement the new law legalizing recreational marijuana in our state. (photo: AP/file)

Shortly after Washington’s governor sat down with the U.S. Attorney General Tuesday to discuss the conflict between the state and the federal government when it comes to marijuana, the Washington State Liquor Control Board held a public forum on the topic.

It’s the next step in implementing Initiative 502, the voter-approved measure to legalize the sale, taxation and consumption of recreational pot.

“We’re considering needing to change the name to include marijuana or cannabis in that board,” said Liquor Control Board Chair Sharon Foster as she opened the forum.

It was a packed crowd, with many people sitting on the floor in front of the first row of chairs and even more standing along the walls of the room.

Foster said she was surprised by the amount of interest in the public forum. She promised the crowd the board would move forward carefully, but would work to meet the Dec. 1 deadline for implementing the entirety of 502.

“The governor expects us to move like the voters told us to move, and we will move ahead. We will hopefully do it correctly,” said Foster.

There were plenty of suggestions from the crowd to help the board with its rule-making process.

A former Microsoft manager who wants to start a high-end pot company asked the board to set up plenty of controls and testing. He said it would be the best defense against any attempt by the federal government to block the state’s efforts.

Another interesting idea surrounded the finances of the budding industry. Right now, banks won’t lend to growers of medicinal pot for fear of being prosecuted by the federal government for money laundering.

“It seems to me that’s not going to go away, at least not in the near future,” said speaker Larry Ward. “What I would suggest that the state set up a funding program that is much like ‘Good to Go.'”

Ward painted a picture for the board in which pre-paid pot cards were sold at local drug stores. Marijuana buyers would be able to link the ‘Good to Go’ pot accounts directly to their credit cards, so they would be automatically refilled once they fell below a set dollar amount.

Not only would it make things easier for cannabis growers and producers, Ward explained it would help the state facilitate taxing of the new product.

“I think the last thing we want to see is a cash business. That was one of the points of 502. It also gives the state total control. You can take your cut right at that level” says Ward.

The next public forum meeting is scheduled to be held at Seattle City Hall Thursday night at 6 p.m.

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