Active Legal Production Analysis in Washington State Part IV: Shortages in social context

Since the publication of this post, we have been alerted that our assumption that most active Tier 3 producers are not indoor may be way off.  Blaine Stum, a researcher with the Spokane Marijuana Policy Working Group, reports that according to his research so far 7 out of the 8 Tier 3’s approved before May 1 may be indoor.  We will adjust our analysis going forward, but keep this in mind for now — Dr. Corva, 7/19/2014

by Dominic Corva, Executive Director

Part III of our analysis of Washington State’s active legal production landscape ended with the following conclusion and question:

Our extremely provisional calculations thus work out to a maximum of 86,800 square feet of active legal canopy that could have been harvested by now.  That’s a far cry from the approximately 800,000 square feet of canopy figure being cited as approved in the news, and explains a bit better (a) why supply is so limited and (b) the rate at which it can be expected to increase.

How do these number translate into pounds, and can we refine our assumptions to learn more?

Let’s pick up where we left off, on the verge of calculating available supply in terms of wholesale pounds, which is a more useful unit for understanding wholesale supply than retail grams, on the one hand, and metric tons on the other.

The WSLCB’s original calculations anticipated that 2 million sq ft of canopy = 40 metric tons of useable flower and 40 mt of raw material for concentrate.  Simple math leads us to the conclusion that they expected 25 square feet of canopy (5 ft by 5 ft, or a really abstract average plant size to yield 1 lb of flowers and 1 lb of useable byproduct (trim, shake, and kief).

If we have approximately 86,800 square feet of active canopy that could have produced by as of July 8, that means our maximum estimated available supply right now could be in the range of 3,472 lbs of useable flower and 3,472 lbs of raw material for concentrates and edibles.  Let’s throw out the latter figure for now, since only one processor has been produced and as of today as far as I know their product is not available in any retail stores yet.

So the question is, where are those lbs of product?  By our calculations, that’s the maximum possible production we could have right now if all producer/processors had to deal with was getting approved.  There are several useful responses to this question.

1.  CASP estimates are based on partial and extremely fallible information and assumptions.  This is definitely true, but even if our conservative estimates are off significantly, we don’t seem to have even 100 lbs to market at this time.

2.  Producer/processors are building/hoarding inventory for any number of reasons, including taking advantage of retail shortages to extract windfall prices even higher than reported so far by CASP.  This is definitely true:  I gave Cannabis City’s James Lathrop two phone numbers the day before he opened.  Kouchlock was able to provide a pound at $4500, but my other source refused to sell James any at this time.  I spoke with that source’s close associate not long after, and there may be more to it than the conversation indicated, including the possibility that their inventory may not have passed quality inspection.  In addition, I am aware of at least one producer/processor whose inventory-clearing price at the moment is $10,000/lb.  Finally, there is at least one active processor whose business plan is predicated on buying up all available inventory and monopolizing market supply.  While this makes sense as a short-term money-maker, I doubt the viability of such an effort since (a) that’s a business plan that builds an extra 25% excise tax into the price structure and (b) I don’t know why anyone would want to do business with them for long.

3.  Sourcing networks simply haven’t been developed yet.  This is definitely true.  Yours truly had more active producer sources for Cannabis City than James had, the day before he opened.  Another approved retailer just outside King County that is just getting their business logistics together not only didn’t have a list of active producers and their phone numbers, but wasn’t yet sure what wholesale prices they were looking at, as of Sunday evening.  I have also recently become aware of a private sector market clearing web site in development, so stay tuned.

4.  Critics of the supply “shortage” in real life exclusively blame the problem on I-502 itself, Washington State policymakers, and the Liquor Control Board.  They cite onerous regulations, slowness in the process and poor timing to worry about (a) a very real shortage of product in open retail stores right now and (b) whether this means the black market wins and by extension I-502 fails.

The CASP Reality Check: There’s far more to the “success” or “failure” of active production than simply getting LCB approval, and the development of a sustainable legal cannabis market depends on a wide array of variables (see Part I in this series).  The retail shortage is not just the result of the supply shortage, because the supply shortage is not just the result of formal I 502 implementation.

We can identify many shortages beyond the control of government officials, but I will single out two: real estate and competence.

(a) There is a legal cannabis real estate shortage because despite zero government interference, most landlords will not rent space for production because they fear federal intervention, property seizure, or other a host of other things.  Even properties that meet I-502’s stringent zoning requirements have to have a willing landlord to become part of the landscape, and the fact is that most landlords will not touch legal cannabis.

Those that do have inflated their prices substantially, for the most part.  In addition to opportunistic rentierism, however, competition from shady (and clean) financial interests bids up prices on 502-compliant properties.  These added — and often unexpected when property gets bought out from under them by real estate and financial speculators.  This is a rampant problem and may be a more significant contributor to higher costs of business and the “I-502 shortage” than any other factor.

(b) There is a competence shortage amongst existing approved I-502 producers.  I (mostly) don’t mean to imply that producers are not capable.  I mean producers are making decisions in a knowledge vacuum because this has never been done before on the one hand and with a huge degree of uncertainty from week to week what can be happening and when.  Just like the WSLCB, their “incompetence” is a side effect of creating something from nothing that has ever been done before (Colorado, with different rules and conditions, isn’t a precedent from which anyone could derive much in the way of lessons).

The upshot of this is that even when approved, active producers aren’t getting up to full-capacity production very fast.

Conclusion to Parts I-IV

While the numbers presented here are probably closer to wild guesses than educated ones, the general thrust of the story about active legal supply is this:  There is a huge difference between “approved production” and actual production, and this difference can be explained by a number of reasons beyond “government failure.”   Market creation is not a top-down administrative procedure: it’s a social process that implicates complex, locally discernible relations of power and knowledge.

Part V of this series will turn our attention to the notion that I-502 is meant to eliminate the black market right away, and that it is sensible to judge the existing state of legal market capture by whether it is in fact making a dent in illegal cannabis markets.

These notions are wrong, is the preview.  Stay tuned!

Washington State Active Legal Cannabis Landscape Analysis: Part III

Since the publication of this post, we have been alerted that our assumption that most active Tier 3 producers are not indoor may be way off.  Blaine Stum, a researcher with the Spokane Marijuana Policy Working Group, reports that according to his research so far 7 out of the 8 Tier 3’s approved before May 1 may be indoor.  We will adjust our analysis going forward, but keep this in mind for now — Dr. Corva, 7/19/2014

by Dominic Corva, Executive Director

This is the third in CASP’s ongoing analysis of Washington State Active Legal Cannabis supply.  Yesterday, we broke down the pace of approval and started to learn something about the pace of legal cannabis production in the context of an imagined social problem produced by I-502 implementation, the “shortage” that many who should know better are citing as evidence of policy failure.  We will be tackling the “failure” cry as it pertains to I-502 as social, not just cannabis, policy in the coming week.  But for now I want to expand our examination of the I-502 legal cannabis markets as they take shape and how we expect them to change, rather than how they are a failure.

The above chart mirrors yesterday’s simple applicant-denominated narrative but is now broken into (a) Tiers per month and (b) nominal canopy approved per month.  Quite simply, we sorted out the WSLCB’s June 8 data on 87 approved producers by Tier and multiplied by the maximum canopy licensed per Tier: 1400 square feet, 7000 square feet, and 21,000 square feet.

This allows us to mobilize some of the assumptions introduced yesterday in service of how much area can be cultivated rather than how many applicants can cultivate.  Let’s review these, even though they will change with further data and in a different season.

1.  We assume that all Tier 1 cultivation is indoor, and that most Tier 3 cultivation is outdoor since no Tier 3s have been approved in King County (where warehouse production as opposed to greenhouses is most likely) yet.  Both of these assumptions are not likely to hold long, if at all, but they work as rules of thumb.

2.  We assume that all finished production until October, with the exception of smaller light dep rotations, is indoor.  No outdoor cannabis that is not light depped can be harvested until October.

3.  We assume that producers could (have) put most of their garden into bloom upon approval, since they could have had their entire crop in vegetative stasis while they waited.  How many of them were that prepared is an open question.

4.  Therefore we assume that each approved indoor producer could have (had) product available between 6-9 weeks after being approved, given 5-7 weeks of bloom and one for (rushed) curing.  This analysis indicates that while some June-licensed producers could be about ready to get product to market, all producers licensed before May 1 should be able to get product to market absent non-WSLCB factors (jurisdictional moratoria, municipal regulations, bad luck, incompetence, undercapitalization, etc).  Because of our cutoff date, we really only expect 10 Tier 1s, 10 Tier 2s and 8 Tier 3s to be active since these were licensed before May 1 approximately 11 weeks ago.  This allows us to expect the May cohort to approximately double supply by August 1, and the much bigger June cohort to quadruple legal cannabis supply by September 1.

5.  We can also assume that all Tier 3 outdoor and greenhouse canopy is being light-depped to some degree, and therefore some small portion of their approved canopy will produce between in mid July and September.  On the other hand, light-depped plants are smaller and yield less, and non-indoor producers really want to maximize their October harvest.

Tier analysis

168,000 square feet of Tier 3 canopy was licensed before May 1, our cutoff date for expected active canopy.  This canopy can be used in a number of different and hybrid ways:s full-sun, greenhouse, hybrid greenhouse, light dep, and indoor.  Tier 3 light dep canopy projections for mid-July to mid-August (light dep round 1) while 336,000 square feet were approved by July 8, which is a generous cutoff for a second light dep harvest mid-August-mid September.  We will be able to track light dep numbers pretty soon and begin to get an idea of how much Tier 3 canopy was devoted to light-dep, which will allow us to project October harvest numbers.  This is important because one of the first things people should know about non-indoor cannabis agriculture is that most of it is harvested in October, and therefore an increase in supply should lower wholesale prices per pound in November.

Until we have more information on the prevalence and practice of light-dep crops, though, we can’t guess at the ratio of light dep to full-term legal cannabis.  Additionally, Tier 3 canopy licensed after a certain point is not going to have any full term harvest by the end of October and may utilize greenhouse hybridization to bring crops to harvest later and perhaps utilize fully convertible greenhouse design to convert to indoor production in the winter months.  It will be interesting to see how quickly expertise, likely from Israeli cannabis consultants, maximizes year round greenhouse production.  As hybrid greenhouse expertise is developed amongst Tier 3s, legal retail cannabis prices will become competitive with medical and illegal market prices.  That’s a lot of uncertainty, which is why CASP projects a noticeable price drop for November 2014 and black market near-parity by November 2015, depending on how quickly the WSLCB expands its retail pool.

All the variables around Tier 3 production make it very hard to guess at what percentage of that 168,000 square feet of canopy is active, or even capable of maximizing light dep while successfully pulling off a  full term harvest.  Some Tier 3s are probably utilizing indoor infrastructure, as well, to get into the market before then.  Tier 3 production will dominate market share when this stuff gets figured out, but it would be a real stretch to predict much impact before November.

So at the moment, it’s likely that active Tier 3s are using some percentage of their permitted canopy to grow indoor and light dep, which takes a bit longer than indoor but not as much as full term.  Given this, we can make the extremely weak assumption that active Tier 3 producers are currently mobilizing a Tier 1 indoor cycle — both to accelerate time to harvest and to save space for full term outdoor.  So the above chart isn’t much help, but basically 8 Tier 3s were licensed before May 1 so our first rough cut at maximum active Tier 3 canopy is 16,800 square feet at 1400 each.

Tier 2 production is a lot harder to get a handle on: it is likely to be mostly indoor west of the Cascades, and significantly non-indoor east of the Cascades.  We will break down likely Tier 2 indoor/non-indoor splits by this geography later in this series, but for now we will mobilize the assumption that 80% of Tier 2 producers are indoor, and that Tier 2 producers who were licensed before May 1 should be capable of finishing product by now.  So, 70,000 square feet of canopy were licensed to Tier 2 producers by May 1, and 80% of that is 56,000 maximum square feet of Tier 2 canopy.

Indoor Tier 1 production is on the same indoor schedule as Tier 2, and since we assume all Tier 1s are indoor we should have 14,000 square feet of maximum active canopy by now, from 10 Tier 1 producers approved by May 1.

Our extremely provisional calculations thus work out to a maximum of 86,800 square feet of active legal canopy that could have been harvested by now.  That’s a far cry from the approximately 800,000 square feet of canopy figure being cited as approved in the news, and explains a bit better (a) why supply is so limited and (b) the rate at which it can be expected to increase.

How do these number translate into pounds, and can we refine our assumptions to learn more?  Stay tuned for our next installment.






Washington State Active Legal Cannabis Landscape Analysis: Part II


Since the publication of this post, we have been alerted that our assumption that most active Tier 3 producers are not indoor may be way off.  Blaine Stum, a researcher with the Spokane Marijuana Policy Working Group, reports that according to his research so far 7 out of the 8 Tier 3’s approved before May 1 may be indoor.  We will adjust our analysis going forward, but keep this in mind for now — Dr. Corva, 7/19/2014

by Dominic Corva, Executive Director

The Washington State Liquor Control Board released a July 8th update just a week after their last one.  The purpose of this analysis is to inform policymakers and the public about the development of the active legal producer pool in Washington State, and it will be updated regularly.

Our first chart, above, tells us a little something about the pace of producer license approvals in Washington State.  That pace is set by many variables, and it is not clear at this time which ones matter the most.  Many assume that this rate is set by the LCB and therefore they are responsible for what is being termed the current “shortage” of legal cannabis in Washington State.  We will address other variables in depth as this post is updated, but for now we can identify a few other variables:  real estate markets and regulation are really important and maybe more so than the pace of the LCB; applicant incompetence is widespread; loss of capitalization as the process drags on; and bad luck should be included as a major variable.

The 84 active state producers counted in the simple chart above do not tell us, however, anything about how much canopy per month has been approved.  CASP will be breaking this down in the coming days.

This chart does tell a simple story, though, from which we will extrapolate.  Remember, indoor producers can grow from cut to flower in about 10 weeks (curing takes longer, but we will ignore that for now).  Producers were allowed to start at any stage of the vegetative cycle, which is about a month indoor but can be indefinite.  Producers who are on the ball have kept their clones in a vegetative state, and in an abstract ideal world the new producers have a significant chunk of their canopy on the cusp of flower when they are approved.  Pending producers, take note and be prepared!

For the sake of our simple story, we will assume that no one activated later than Jun 1 is about to have product to market, since that’s about a month.  In reality, plenty of earlier producers weren’t ready to flower when they were approved, and some producers in June were probably on the ball and about to sell product any day now.

That gives us about 44 active producers who should be capable of supplying the 24 approved retailers who have either opened up this week or soon thereafter.  That’s not a nominal huge number, especially when we take into account that most of these are Tier 1s and Tier 2s.  On the other hand, it means that over the next month the effectively active producers — ones able to process and package cured sinsemilla flowers — will double.  How much a difference this makes will depend on how many more retailers open up; and how many of the 44 pre-Jun 1 producers will finally be coming on line like they should be given their head start.

And that’s really the issue right now.  Approved producers aren’t necessarily active yet, in the final product sense, for all the other variables besides WSLCB approval.  Many of them for some reason or another are missing out on the highest wholesale prices per pound we’ll ever see again.  The first producer to be approved, Kouchlock, had exactly one pound — less, really, at 400 grams — to sell to Cannabis City yesterday.  Nine Point out of Bremerton, WA, which was approved five days after Kouchlock, was able to supply Cannabis City with 10 pounds.  Both undoubtedly have other outlets, but the contrast indicates that perhaps Kouchlock had been running into those other variables we mentioned above — and they affect approved producers, not just pending ones.





Washington State Active Legal Cannabis Landscape Analysis: Part I

Map by Steve Hyde
Map by Steve Hyde

by Dominic Corva, Executive Director

On July 1, 2014, the Liquor Control Board updated their master applicant for producers and processors.  This post is our first analysis of legal landscape production in Washington State.

62 Producers licenses are listed as “Active,” out of 2654 total.  Of that total, another 13 license applications have been withdrawn. This translates into about 2% of the applicant pool that is currently producing cannabis for retail shops that open early next week.

This seems like a pretty low number after more than six months, and some of that can be attributed to WSLCB’s chronic under staffing issues.  Several other things should be in the readers’ minds for context.  First, a significant number of producer applicants came from folks who were in weak position to capitalize on a license should they get it, whether from inexperience, incompetence, regulatory curveballs, under capitalization, and plain old bad luck.  This was evident from my interview with I-5 Realty owner Tom Gordon, who estimated that between 5-15% of total applicants would be active when the one year anniversary of the process occurs in November, due to their own issues.  It also jibes with WSLCB staffer Becky Smith told me  two months ago, that much of the hold-up was due to applicant issues rather than the agency’s human capital restraints.

Nonetheless, it is significant enough for the Center for the Study of Cannabis and Social Policy to begin mapping the landscape.  This begins with a basic step, the mapping of all 62 locations.  While we used publicly available WSLCB data on applicant addresses, we have chosen not to list those out of concern for processor safety.  The overall picture reveals that 548,800 square feet of canopy are “active” across the state.  Remember, this time last year the WSLCB expected to license 2 million square feet of canopy for I-502, total.  We are now a quarter of the way to that destination, and while that guideline has been bent and now broken, it’s something to keep in mind when people speculate about legal cannabis “shortages” and for how long.

The next thing to discern from the data are how big each processor is, by Tier, because this makes a huge difference between nominal market share and actual market share.  Tier 1 producers constitute 27% of approved licenses, Tier 2 48%, and Tier 3 24%.  By share of maximum nominal canopy licensed, however, the maximum square footage for Tier 1 producers is 5%; Tier 2 38%; and Tier 3 a whopping 57%.  These are nominal canopy numbers because effective canopy licensed depends strongly on whether folks are growing indoor or not indoor: indoor producers can max out at 5 canopy cycles per year while full sun outdoor producers can get 3 — and two of those are light dep cycles.

Nominal Share Tier Share Pie

Once we have the Tier breakdown, we can estimate (a) total approved effective canopy production and (b) market share per Tier Operation.  This gives us a sense of projected Tier market shares, since we have a 62 sample data set.  As a rule of thumb, all Tier 1 licenses can be assumed to be indoor production while all currently approved Tier 3 licenses can be assumed to be not indoor, because no Tier 3s have been licensed in King County, where large warehouse production is most likely.  At the same time, outdoor Tier 3 production does not have the capacity to rush growth on order to get to market like indoor canopy does.  Most Tier 3s are probably doing light deps for early harvests, but the lion’s share of their production will be harvested in October.  So, 57% percent of currently active canopy is highly unlikely to produce their maximum canopy till October, which skews the actual, existing production in favor of indoor, smaller producers and outdoor Tier 3s with hybrid greenhouses.

All signs point towards major windfalls for this cohort of active legal producers.  I’ve received reports of bids for wholesale pounds that range from $3000/lb to $7000/lb, which is about where black market prices were in the late 1980s till mid -2000s.  The $7000 bid is probably anomalous and would represent the highest price I’ve ever heard someone willing to pay for a pound of wholesale flower.  Most of the wholesale pound range will probably by between $4000-5000/lb, although folks with producer processor licenses will be able to capture more of that windfall than those with just producer licences given the extra tax step — but those producer/processors now have to contend with selling those pounds in packaged increments: one gram, two grams, and eighth (about 3.5 grams) and a quarter ounce.  That’s a lot of extra work and they are probably paying people to do it.

How does that work out per gram, if retailers sell pre-tax at between $15-$25/gram?   The $4000-$5000/lb wholesale works out to $9 and $11/gram that the producer gets — add $2.50 for the retail excise tax margin and current estimates then work out to a margin of between $2.50-$12.5/gram for retailers*.  The low end is not much, and perhaps there are more wholesale pounds going at under $4000/lb than I am aware.  It will be interesting to see whether the legal market follows the illegal and medical tendency for each step in the chain to add about 20%, but that’s about what it shapes up to be with these calculations.

This has been our first analysis of active legal cannabis production landscapes  in Washington State.  We will be updating these each time the WSLCB releases new data.

*This calculation has been revised and clarified.  Special thanks to CASP ally and accounting consultant, Todd Arkley CPA.

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!

Berlin recap


(Dr. Horst-Dietrich-Elvers, Dr. Dominic Corva; Dr. Jan-Henrik Friedrichs; Dr. D.J. Korff)

by Dr. Dominic Corva, Executive Director

I can hardly believe it was a few hours short of a week ago I left Seattle for Berlin to participate in a conference on the topic of Cannabis Legalization at Berlin’s Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg Museum.  The public event was very well attended and featured a terrific keynote address from Dr. Jan-Henrik Friedrichs, cultural historian, on conditions of urban development and refugee politics that catalyzed the need for a public discussion on a proposal being developed by the District mayor, Monika Herman, to establish a legal cannabis market in the  Goerlitzer Park.

As with cannabis politics in modernity, the social issue had very little to do with cannabis itself and mostly to do with the concentration of African refugees selling cannabis in the “Gurly” as the park is known locally.  This issue seems to have developed over the last three years:  drug dealing by young black men in the park has been common in the past, but some families and children’s social workers are reporting themselves “squeezed out” of the park due to aggressive marketing.

This is apparently the consequence of dealers being “pushed out” of other Berlin parks in recent years, rather than simply a matter of more consumption or dealing.  While accurate numbers are probably hard to come by, one panelist suggested that 90% of the dealing in the park is in cannabis flowers. Additionally, property values around the park seem to be rising rapidly with the intensification of gentrification.  Mayor Herman’s plan, in principle, seemed intended to regulate and formalize local cannabis markets in order to (a) prevent the rise of “hard drug” markets; (b) make things easier on the local refugee population as they are increasingly stigmatized as drug dealers and (c) address local concerns about especially children’s safety in the park.

The Mayor’s point person on this initiative is Dr. Elvers, pictured above on the left.  Dr. Elvers was the only person in the audience really prepared to discuss technical issues associated with implementation rather than political issues including whether or not refugee issues could be addressed through legalization.  Dr. Elvers has his job cut out for him, and both the Dutch professor Dr. Korff (above, far right) and myself had limited relevant comparative context for addressing his technical questions.  Dr. Korff’s perspective is from the Dutch coffeeshop system, which is a decrim policy for retail and on-site consumption; and mine of course is from Seattle/the U.S. where 20 years of medical cannabis politics have created more fertile grounds for addressing legalization.  I did, however, get a chance to talk to him one-on-one where I urged him to start with community meetings, to get reticent locals — the ones who are complaining about the Gurly Park situation — to feel like they have a voice and to have a place where they can voice their fears.  His reaction was fascinating:  apparently that’s what he wanted to push for first but the mayor’s office decided other things were more important.

At any rate, the conference was a terrific success — attended by the Berlin Mayor and a Federal politician who has long advocated cannabis lilberalization, Hans-Christian Ströbele.  Museum director Martin Duspohl was amused the next day to find out how the right wing newspaper covered the conference: by announcing that it cost $5000 Euros, highlighting my participation and that of noted leftist and national politician Hans-Christian Ströbele.  It is my honor to have such a person as second bill in a complaint about wasted taxpayer dollars!  The conference was covered with more nuance and discussion here and here.


*****The flyer for the conference, in German******

“Legalize It!?” Conference Flyer PDF: Legalize_It_final_20-5-14_web




Reading the retail lottery landscape 1.0

by Dominic Corva, Executive Director

As producers and processors move slowly through the licensing process, we have at last another milestone in the development of Legal Cannabis Landscapes in Washington State. Thursday the WSLCB held its retail application lottery and released that information to the public — with the exception of Longview, where a lawsuit prevented the release of those results.

What do we know about the results?  Although news reports and maps are currently showing 254 lottery “winners” in 75 jurisdictions where applicants exceeded available retail spots, it’s very important to realize a few key things about what we don’t know.

1.  There were an additional 47 jurisdictions in which 80 retail slots were up for grabs.  That’s a huge chunk of the 122 jurisdictions and 334 total retail slots for which we have no information.

2.  Many businesses played the lottery game by submitting multiple applications.  Each application counted as a separate lottery entry.  Some businesses managed to snag more than one retail slot, although they cannot have more than one retail location.  So the first cut is the one where businesses with multiple winners decide which one they want to open, and the other locations are removed from the ranking list.  This has already happened in Federal Way, according to Federal Way applicant Stefani Quane.  Her ranking (she was at 6 and needed to get to three) moved up one because two of the top 3 in Federal Way were from the same business.  Undoubtedly, this is happening in other jurisdictions.

3.  The retail “winners” win only the right to have their applications reviewed further.  The WSLCB will be examining financial backgrounds, background checks, and other criteria.  If and when a “winner” is eliminated, the other applicants will move up in the rankings.

4.  There is clearly a clustering issue, with Ballard and Sodo hosting about half of the locations., This has significant policy implications for two reasons.  One, because the WSLCB has made certain claims around consumer access in support of arguments about the 502 system being capable of providing safe access in lieu of medical access points. The other is that access to legal cannabis should have a significant effect on consumer choices (medical or not) about whether to stick with their convenient — often delivered — black market access or see if the legal retail stores can meet their preferences.

5.  The flip side of the clustering issue is what parts of Seattle have no retail locations.  The University District, Capitol Hill, and South Seattle are all significant clusters of current cannabis consumption, and there are no retail stores in these areas.

6.  Lawsuits.  No way to tell how many or for what right now other than WSLCB filing errors or the perception thereof.

The Center is working on mapping the retail landscape throughout the state with a special focus on Seattle and King County.  Until then, this is the location of my favorite map so far which not only locates the “winners” but identifies their lottery ranking:

Local Implementation Update and Trend Report



March 26th 2014

Background:  Washington voters approved Initiative 502 in November 2012 setting up a legal system to tax and regulate marijuana for recreational use.  Cities and counties were given authority to pass additional zoning regulations.  Cities have final authority granting licensing for marijuana businesses, following state approval.

Project:  The Center collected data on the 75 most populous cities in Washington to examine how local governments have handled I-502 implementation legislatively.  Over the last several months the Center has tracked the shifting implementation strategies of those cities.


ZONED:  City council passed legislation zoning areas where marijuana businesses could apply or updated the Municipal Code recognizing recreational marijuana.

MORATORIUM: City council passed legislation putting a hold on accepting marijuana licenses.  These ranged from 6-12 months.

BANNED:  City passes legislation banning marijuana businesses until the drug is approved federally or officials have threatened to ban.

NO ACTION:  Cities took no legislative action, will treat marijuana businesses like any other business or simply expands medical marijuana laws to recreational.  

# of cities %*
Population Impacted **
ZONED 33 44% 2,293,070
MORATORIUM 29 39% 1,094,924
BANNED 5 7% 223,416
NO ACTION 8 11% 244,469
Total 75 3,855,879


From January 1, 2014 to March 25, 2014 seventeen (17) cities have altered their policies related to I-502.  The legislative movements are:

Moratorium to Zone 10
Moratorium to Ban 2
No Action to Zone 2
No Action to Moratorium 2
Zone to Moratorium 1 

Key Findings:

  • More cities that originally passed moratoria have opted to zone rather than ban.
  • Only 2 additional bans have been implemented after the Attorney General’s opinion affirming local bans.
  • Moratoria have dropped in 11 cities.


  City County Est. Population Status
1 Seattle King 634,535 ZONED
2 Spokane Spokane 209,525 ZONED
3 Tacoma Pierce 202,010 ZONED (Interim)
4 Vancouver Clark 165,489 ZONED
5 Bellevue King 126,439 ZONED
6 Kent King 122,999 MORATORIUM
7 Everett Snohomish 104,655 ZONED (interim)
8 Renton King 95,448 MORATORIUM
9 Yakima Yakima 93,101 BANNED
10 Federal Way King 91,933 MORATORIUM
11 Spokane Valley Spokane 90,641 ZONED (Interim)
12 Bellingham Whatcom 82,234 ZONED
13 Kennewick Benton 75,971 MORATORIUM
14 Auburn King/Pierce 73,505 MORATORIUM
15 Pasco Franklin 65,398 MORATORIUM
16 Marysville Snohomish 62,402 MORATORIUM
17 Lakewood Pierce 58,852 BANNED
18 Redmond King 56,561 MORATORIUM
19 Shoreline King 54,352 NO ACTION
20 Richland Benton 51,440 MORATORIUM
21 Kirkland King 50,697 ZONED (interim)
22 Burien King 49,410 ZONED
23 Sammamish King 49,069 MORATORIUM
24 Olympia Thurston 47,698 ZONED (Interim)
25 Lacey Thurston 43,860 NO ACTION
26 Edmonds Snohomish 40,400 MORATORIUM
27 Bremerton Kitsap 39,251 NO ACTION
28 Puyallup Pierce 38,147 MORATORIUM
29 Longview Cowlitz 36,458 ZONED
30 Lynnwood Snohomish 36,275 ZONED (Interim)
31 Bothell King/Sno 34,651 NO ACTION
32 Issaquah King 32,633 MORATORIUM
33 Wenatchee Chelan 32,562 BANNED
34 Mount Vernon Skagit 32,287 ZONED
35 Walla Walla Walla Walla 31,864 ZONED (Interim)
36 University Place Pierce 31,562 MORATORIUM
37 Pullman Whitman 31,359 ZONED
38 Des Moines King 30,449 ZONED
39 Lake Stevens Snohomish 29,104 ZONED
40 SeaTac King 27,667 BANNED
41 Maple Valley King 24,171 ZONED
42 Mercer Island King 23,661 NO ACTION
43 Bainbridge Island Kitsap 23,263 MORATORIUM
44 Oak Harbor Island 22,260 ZONED
45 Kenmore King 21,280 MORATORIUM
46 Moses Lake Grant 21,182 ZONED
47 Mukilteo Snohomish 20,605 ZONED
48 Camas Clark 20,490 MORATORIUM
49 Mountlake Terrace Snohomish 20,198 ZONED
50 Tukwila King 19,611 ZONED
51 Port Angeles Clallam 19,056 NO ACTION
52 Mill Creek Snohomish 18,671 MORATORIUM
53 Ellensburg Kittitas 18,348 ZONED
54 Arlington Snohomish 18,317 ZONED
55 Covington King 18,298 ZONED (Interim)
56 Tumwater Thurston 18,102 ZONED
57 Battle Ground Clark 18,044 NO ACTION
58 Bonney Lake Pierce 17,964 MORATORIUM
59 Monroe Snohomish 17,503 ZONED (Interim)
60 Aberdeen Grays Harbor 16,529 ZONED (Interim)
61 Centralia Lewis 16,505 MORATORIUM
62 Sunnyside Yakima 16,054 MORATORIUM
63 Anacortes Skagit 15,928 MORATORIUM
64 Washougal Clark 14,584 MORATORIUM
65 East Wenatchee Douglas 13,439 MORATORIUM
66 Lake Forest Park King 12,972 MORATORIUM
67 West Richland Benton 12,663 MORATORIUM
68 Lynden Whatcom 12,605 MORATORIUM
69 Ferndale Whatcom 11,998 MORATORIUM
70 Kelso Cowlitz 11,832 ZONED
71 Port Orchard Kitsap 11,680 ZONED (Interim)
72 Snoqualmie King 11,594 NO ACTION
73 Enumclaw King/Pierce 11,327 MORATORIUM
74 Woodinville King 11,234 BANNED
75 Cheney Spokane 11,018 ZONED (interim)

For access to our interactive map and links to legislative documents please visit:

Please email Dr. Dominic Corva, Executive Director, with any questions.

* Percentages are rounded to the nearest whole number.

**Population data is from the estimated 2012 population from the US Census Bureau