CASP evolution: Welcome new Board members

by Dominic Corva, Executive Director

It’s been a busy and volatile year since I founded the Center for the Study of Cannabis and Social Policy.  Our first Board consisted of myself, Dr. Sunil Aggarwal and Dr. Michelle Sexton.  Although Sunil has had to leave the Board to concentrate on just of few of the many important things he’s doing, including an upcoming NIH fellowship, he was instrumental in jump-starting CASP’s credibility and weaving his incredibly valuable network into ours.  We anticipate the day he can rejoin the organization, but his contributions continue to help our organization going forward.

Our first year was an improvisational performance to a certain extent.  We were open to following the research and policy paths that opened up to us on a daily basis, while relying primarily on volunteer energy and inter-organizational collaboration.  There were so many short-term projects related to informing the public and policymakers about how legal landscapes were developing.  Of all of these, the  Health Before Happy Hour campaign consumed the most time and energy for me personally.  Turns out the biggest short term policy intersection for legal cannabis was … medical cannabis policy. This was not something I anticipated coming in.

While we continue to work on the intersection of medical and cannabis policy, we are at last making substantive headway into legal cannabis policy and economic geography; chemotype mapping; and genetic geographies.  The chemotype mapping project is complementary to Dr. Sexton’s new role as co-owner and manager of Phytalab which just opened in Seattle.

As you may realize, my role as Executive Director supports my ongoing research into the political economy of cannabis agriculture, and this in turn has helped create a grounded network of allies/ethnographic subjects in Washington State.  From this emergent community, we have asked four amazing people to join the board and in conjunction with Michelle, this five member Board will take charge of fundraising and professionalization for the organization.  I am proud to call them my bosses!  In no particular order, please welcome:

Don Wirtschafter:  Don is a countercultural institution in and of himself, having participated in hemp and cannabis politics since there was any such thing.  He played a key role in the formation of GW Pharmaceuticals as a medical research company, pre-corporate global ambitions.  He has served on the board of national NORML, owned and operated Ohio’s pioneering Hemp Store, and practiced law up until recently, when he moved to Washington state to develop an I-502 compliant cannabis business.

Aaron Varney:  Aaron is co-owner of Dockside Cooperative, the first access point to earn Patient-Focused Certification from Americans for Safe Access.  He is an expert cultivator and now is navigating Dockside’s transition to 502 retail.  I first met Aaron through Dr. Sexton and we are both thrilled that he accepted a position on our Board.

Rachel Kurtz:  Rachel is a Seattle Drug Policy Activist and lawyer for Wykowski and Associates.  I first met Rachel while working on the King County Bar Association Drug Policy Project in 2003-2004, and hired her as CASP lawyer not long after I formed the organization.  She has extensive experience serving on nonprofit Boards and is the speaker coordinator for Seattle Hempfest.


Naz Victoria: Naz, a Pennsylvania transplant, is one of the first 50 producer/processors to get the go-ahead from the Washington State Liquor Control Board.  In addition to being an experienced businessman, he is well-versed in the history of cannabis markets and supports outdoor, sungrown cannabis for environmental and economic reasons.  His facility is located in Okanagon, Washington, where the first efforts to create a national Sun Growers association are emerging.

I could say so much more about these people, and undoubtedly will in the future.  They represent the conscientious wing of cannabis industry and activism, are committed to reality-based policy, and have a clearly defined commitment to cannabis and social policy.  They have become my friends and confidants, and I am honored indeed to bring them on board!