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:

http://seattle.curbed.com/archives/2014/05/marijuana-license-lottery-seattle-winners-map.php

Geographies of Legal Cannabis Real Estate in Washington: An interview with Tom Gordon

by Dominic Corva, Executive Director

Last week I had a chance to sit down with I-5 Real Estate owner Tom Gordon.  Tom is one of the few cannabis real estate stakeholders that I see regularly at activist, as opposed to just industry, organizational events and meetings.  Our half-hour conversation addressed where and why real estate markets are such an important factor to understand structural challenges to policy implementation.

He also blew my mind when I asked his sense of what percentage of producer applicants will end up meeting the various challenges to their 502 permit applications.  From his perspective, he estimates that between 5 and 15% will make it through the process.  That’s a much lower percentage than I expected.  It does however match up with Becky Smith of the WSLCB’s information from a couple weeks ago, that while 10 producers have made it all the way through, 40 more would be finished but for their own unfinished real estate business.

Local Implementation Update and Trend Report

 

LOCAL IMPLEMENTATION OF I-502 UPDATE with LEGISLATIVE TRENDS

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.

Definitions:

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:

http://cannabisandsocialpolicy.org/projects/washington-local-i-502-implementation/

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

corvad@caspcenter.org

* Percentages are rounded to the nearest whole number.

**Population data is from the estimated 2012 population from the US Census Bureau http://www.census.gov/popest/data/cities/totals/2011/files/SUB-EST2011_ALL.csv

Partner Project Okanagon Cannabis Association

LCB WA Map

by Dominic Corva

The Center for the Study of Cannabis and Social Policy is pleased to announce a partner research project with the Okanagon Cannabis Association.  This project will focus on educating policymakers and the public about the environmental impacts of Legal Cannabis Policy, with a special focus on identifying the geography of indoor and outdoor Legal Cannabis businesses throughout the state.

The project should be especially relevant to the Liquor Control Board as it reviews applications; environmental stakeholders throughout the state since Legal Cannabis Policy is, from this perspective, a new layer of environmental policy; Legal Cannabis industry stakeholders as they decide how they will grow and where, at the lowest production cost; and the Department of Agriculture as it should, in the future, be increasingly involved in regulating Cannabis Agriculture.

The term “environmental impacts” will include but not be limited to analysis of solar, water, and soil issues related to Legal Cannabis Agriculture; and will be cross-studied with socioeconomic data to produce information on the relationship between environmental policy and other forms of social policy such as inequality, gender and race.

The Future of Legalization in Washington After Attorney General’s Opinion Affirming Local Pot Bans

By: Drew Matthews drew@cannabisandsocialpolicy.org

On January 16, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson released his long-awaited opinion regarding local government’s right to ban marijuana businesses, saying, “Although Initiative 502 establishes a licensing and regulatory system for marijuana producers, processors, and retailers in Washington State, it includes no clear indication that it was intended to preempt local authority to regulate such businesses. We therefore conclude that I-502 left in place the normal powers of local governments to regulate within their jurisdictions.” 

In short, Ferguson has affirmed that local governments have the authority to ban marijuana businesses.

Alison Holcomb, the mastermind of I-502 and current criminal justice Director at ACLU Washington responded to the legal opinion, saying, “Despite the initiative clearly and specifically giving the Liquor Control Board the task of licensing enough stores in each county to meet the demand for marijuana legally, it appears legal businesses may be forced to sue to be allowed to compete with the black market.”

The Liquor Control Board (LCB), which requested the Attorney General’s opinion, was disappointed by the decision, saying, “We’re not yet sure how this opinion will change the implementation of the initiative. If some local governments impose bans it will impact public safety by allowing the current illicit market to continue. It will also reduce the state’s expectations for revenue generated from the legal system we are putting in place.”

WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS?

Lower tax revenue

Tax revenues will be considerably less than projected (currently $1.9 billion over 5 years) if municipalities are allowed to enact local moratoriums or bans.  Tax revenues are to be dispersed to the Department of Social and Health Services, the state health care fund, research programs on drug abuse prevention and the impacts of legalization, and public education programs.

Expansive dry areas in rural and southern Washington

Large parts of southern and eastern Washington have passed moratoriums pausing implementation of I-502 (See Local Implementation map).  All of these moratoriums expire in 2014, at which point city councils and county commissioners must either extend the moratoriums, ban licensing altogether, zone specifically for marijuana businesses, or treat marijuana licenses like any other business.  If the current moratoriums stay in place or are replaced by bans, a person in Vancouver, Washington would have to travel over 100 miles to Lewis County to purchase legal cannabis.

 Black markets will continue to thrive

In order to compete with the black market there must be significant local buy-in.  Cities and counties that choose to ban or place excessive zoning restrictions on marijuana businesses are leaving their local black market unchecked.  If the current number of moratoriums remain in place, nearly 50% of Washington’s most populous cities will have unchallenged black markets.  As the LCB stated, an unchecked illicit market threatens public safety.

POLICY SOLUTIONS

The State must give local governments incentive to implement the law.  A bipartisan bill recently introduced in the state legislature would punish local governments that ban marijuana business by withholding their share of disbursements from the state liquor-license account. I offer several other policy options that will smooth implementation of I-502.

Disperse marijuana tax revenues directly to governments that implement

Under the current law, local governments will only receive marijuana tax revenues in the form of grants to fund local community agencies dedicated to reducing youth marijuana use.  Alternatively, lawmakers could give local governments more flexibility with these funds, thereby increasing the financial incentive to fully implement I-502.  A portion of the revenue collected from marijuana taxes should be allocated to local governments that comply with I-502 with no strings attached.  This money could be used as needed by local governments in order to fund other local initiatives, including law enforcement, education and transportation.

Allow home delivery

People in rural parts of the state may not have the resources to drive dozens of miles for a good that should be available locally.  A solution is to allow retail stores to deliver to customer’s homes.  This practice is not currently allowed because the law states that transactions must take place in the licensed establishment.  Black market dealers deliver, further incentivizes consumers to remain in the illicit market.

Remove the cap on the number of retail stores

The cap on retail licenses has already challenged the viability of success for I-502 by creating retail monopolies in certain parts of the state.  The combination of widespread moratoriums and caps on retail stores per county will create “green oases”, where only one or two retail stores are available for dozens if not hundreds of miles.

Demand is likely higher than what the state expected when they wrote retail regulations.  A recent RAND study has projected that marijuana consumption in Washington is likely twice as much as the figure used by state regulators.  More stores should be allowed, especially in areas surrounding dry zones.  Hopefully this will lessen the transportation burden for consumers, and create greater competition for pricing, variety, and quality of product.

Increase local pressure

If the State will not force cities and counties to implement I-502, that pressure must come from citizens.  People living in areas with moratoriums or bans who wish to see the law fully implemented must engage their local governments.  Council members and commissioners have enormous power in regulating and implementing the law, and the success or failure of I-502 is contingent on local cooperation.  Elected officials may be wary of the political backlash if they implement I-502, and need to know that constituents support implementation of a legal marijuana

“Everything is being re-imagined. We are shaking the world with a new dream.” _Grace Lee Boggs : Medical Cannabis and pediatric patients.

The title quote from Grace Lee Boggs, a 98-year old philosopher, feminist and political activist who has been labeled “An American Revolutionary”, is passed on from the mother of a child who suffers from seizure and other diagnoses.  What, might you wonder is the cause of her pronoia? (defined as the opposite state of mind as paranoia)  Because of access to medical Cannabis in Washington State, she has some hope for her child.   She has begun to administer a non-psychoactive Cannabis extract to her daughter under an act passed by voter initiative in 1998. Her attitude, like that of many other families in this same circumstance, is one of expectation that there may be the chance to have improved in the quality of life for her family.

In a contemporary manifestation of the Underground Railroad, parents are turning out to be the heroes/heroines in a struggle against the abolitionist policy regarding Cannabis as medicine. Their children, who suffer from debilitating disorders, are the figurative fugitives in this story, and the parents are accessing local “safe houses” that provide the relief from Cannabis that they have sought for years from pharmaceutical drugs.

Current Washington State law states: “Humanitarian compassion necessitates that the decision to use cannabis by patients with terminal or debilitating medical conditions is a personal, individual decision, based upon their health care professional’s professional medical judgment and discretion”.

With the support of a compassionate doctor in Washington State, this mother is able to access Cannabis for her child under the voter initiative, and has now become an expert in many aspects of Cannabis as medicine.  She has learned how to dilute a cannabidiol-rich (CBD) concentrate so she can give a precise milligram dose of CBD, she is aware of potential drug interactions, how to monitor the weaning from the harmful anti-epileptic drugs her daughter has been on, and what to monitor her daughter for regarding any potential side-effects.  So far, the side effects have been mostly beneficial, such as improved sleep and improved behavior. The seizure reduction will likely follow as she slowly titrates the dose upward, as many other families like hers are teaching her to do.  She is learning that whole plant medicine works where single-agent compounds have largely failed her child.

20131031_081311
This is Samuel, age 9. He has a diagnoses of Mowat-Wilson syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and is a medical Cannabis patient in Washington

For now this mother has a level of legal protection under the Washington State law: “Persons who act as designated providers to such patients shall also not be arrested, prosecuted, or subject to other criminal sanctions or civil consequences under state law, notwithstanding any other provision of law, based solely on their assisting with the medical use of cannabis”. Like the original Underground Railroad, these families don’t know what their next move will be, or whether it might be to another State where they can continue to provide medicine for their children, to either grow themselves, or access from a qualified facility.  Not unlike the original cargo, their journey has been fraught with confusion, a perceived danger of reprisal from their doctors, child protective services or family members, as they have “come out” on this new “Upperground Railroad” as Frederick Douglass coined a term.  Now not even Canada is  a safe haven, as it was for slaves, for parents such as these who might want to grow their own medicine. (Patients can no longer grow Cannabis in Canada)

However, as in the gospel lore “the wheels keep on turning”, and this gospel train of liberation from human suffering keeps chugging along, parent-to-parent, family-to-family!   How long will it take before Federal Governments won’t be the only legitimate drug dealers for several plants that have the capacity to alleviate human suffering?  How much longer until this plant and others are set free to interact with the human biome as they were likely designed to do, and not be captured and altered by pharmaceutics?

Until that time, it is likely that these parents, empowered by taking healthcare into their own hands with botanical medicine, will continue to “Follow the Drinking Gourd” to their own true north:  the healing of their children, their families and the trickle-down effects to their communities and the planet at large!

image
This is two-year-old Jackson, who suffers from intractable epilepsy with multiple seizure types as well as infantile spasms second to an undiagnosed yet suspected complex 1 mitochondrial disease. He is a medical Cannabis patient

Here is a quote from another of these brave parents: “Parents have the right to save their children’s lives when conventional medicine isn’t effective and causing more harm than good.   With an open mind, researchers and doctors can discover what is true about this medicine that has been used for hundreds of years.  Anecdotal evidence is everywhere!”

AHP Monograph set for publication!

The American Herbal Pharmacopoeia has finalized the first installment of a Cannabis monograph.  Dr. Michelle Sexton has been an editor and technical advisor on this project.  Pre-order yours now for Christmas!

monograph

An herbal monograph is a document produced on the topic of a single plant that describes nomenclature, parts used, constituents, range of application, contraindications, side effects, incompatibilities with other medications, dosage, use, and action of the herb.  The first installment of the monograph, set to go to press this week, is “Standards of Identity, Analysis and Quality Control”.  This document has been adopted by rule to guide, specifically, the quality assurance testing of Cannabis and related products under I502.  The second installment will focus on therapeutic applications and is expected sometime next spring.  This monograph represents the most up-to-date review of topics from nomenclature, Identification, Constituents, Analytical Standards and International Status.  AHP monographs fill the mission to  “promote the responsible use of herbal medicines and ensure they are used with the highest possible degree of efficacy and safety. Our primary way to accomplish this is through the development of standards of identity, purity, and analysis for botanicals, as well as to critically review traditional and scientific data regarding their efficacy and safety”.

ASA_Patients_Focused

This publication is significant because for the first time since Cannabis was removed from the Us pharmacopoeia in 1942, this “red-headed step child” of a plant now has a home!  Additionally, the American Herbal Products Association  has developed documents to guide regulators and the industry in providing quality assurance and quality control.   Together, the monograph and AHPA standards have guided Americans for Safe Access in development of a Patients First Certification Program.   Despite the fact that I502 regulations will not at this time require medical Cannabis to have the same level of quality control as that marketed in retail stores for adult use, it is hoped that in time the quality of medical products will exceed that of adult use products.

Good Agricultural Practices are addressed in both AHP and AHPA documents and cultivation and processing guidelines are included.  If you want more information about either of these organizations, contact them and we encourage you to join the AHPA if you are involved in any area of production or distribution of Cannabis and related products.  The Chair of the Cannabis Committee at AHPA is Tim Smale.

Gardening, An Inalienable Human Right!

Greens

By Michelle Sexton ND

Recently I had the serendipitous occasion to have a long conversation with Dr. Jonathon Page, who published “The Draft Genome and Transcriptome of Cannabis sativa”.  We were on a bus traveling to the Bedrocan growing facility in The Netherlands.  (Bedrocan is the only licensed company by the Ministry of Health to grow medical grade Cannabis).  It turns out that plants have amazing “genomic resources” (not unlike humans) and Jonathan’s way of summing this up was in the statement “It’s ggod to be weedy, if your’re a crop!”  (Dr. Page published the discovery of olivetolic acid synthase (OAS), an major enzyme in the metabolic pathway of cannabinoids). 

In essence, what this means is that adaptability is important for change.  Plants must be able to survive year after year, in quite variable growing extremes (drought vs. flood; heat vs. freeze etc. . . )  I guess this could be likened somewhat to individuality in humans.  Individuality is an important factor in adapting, especially as we age or deal with disease, for refining our values and “wants”.   When faced with chronic pain or a debilitating disease, simple things may become more valued, just as in times of drought a plant will selectively conserve resources, and only produce the metabolites that are necessary for staying alive.

One factor important for humans’ quality of life, especially during illness is having a source of joy.  It turns out that such a common source reported by those who are ill is nature, specifically, gardening.  Avoidance of a sedentary lifestyle, even if this is by engaging in leisure activity has the potential to increase lifespan.  This has been termed “biopsychosocial benefits, meaning there are benefits to several aspects of well-being.  A reduction in mortality by all causes, enhancement of pain management in nursing home residents, improved happiness, less loneliness, greater life satisfaction, and enhanced psychologic well-being has been reported.  Gardening experiences by women in a homeless shelter, “interupted negative ruminations” and provided stress relief.  This type of “spiritual care” seems to be discounted and often entirely ignored in the current healthcare debate at large.  Healing gardens are used in France to enhance quality of life in Alzheimer patients.  

Obviously, the interactions between humans and the natural environment are complex and always one affects the other.  Tending our environment is a form of therapy, both for ourselves and plants!   The point of writing all of this is to address the recent Draft Recommendations of the Medical Marijuana Work Group from the Washington State Liquor Control Board.  From a perspective of a gardener (with a formal horticulture degree), herbalist and doctor, it is alarming me that the right to grow a medicinal plant may be forbidden.

At the recent International Association of Cannabinoid Medicines meeting in Cologne, Germany, growing one’s own Cannabis was a common theme,  was summed up by Raphael Mechoulam who stated something to the effect of “people smoking Cannabis that we don’t know what is in it, is not medicine”.  It is this sort of thinking that has long frustrated me, since I first became interested in natural medicine at the age of 17.  It has always made sense to me to “live naturally”, peacefully co-existing with the environment,  growing my own food, leaving no trace, etc. . . Our environment has undergone massive change, and we as humans have had to adapt, as has the environment.  

tinctureThe political environment surrounding Cannabis is now changing, and those of us intertwined with the plant must change, just as we have changed this plant.  It’s time for us “weedy” individuals to become more “weedy”!  This may be a time for opportunistic expansion and the development “refined niches” for the cultivation of medical Cannabis plant material.   It will take the collective creativity of us all to not follow a narrow path such as the one in The Netherlands (single-grower system) nor to merge paths with the “adult use” system (I502).  I see the patients who grow and use their own medicine as empowered individuals, and there is no simple scale by which to measure the benefits of empowerment on quality and quantity of life.  We simply can’t let the current climate  lead to the extinction of such a basic human right as the right to garden.


 

Tantamount to Freedom

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Tantamount to Freedom

© Michelle Sexton ND 2013

Thus far in my lifetime, I have become involved in two different movements that I realized have several common threads.  The first movement for me was the becoming a midwife and participating in homebirth. This “becoming” was partially as a result of my own hospital surgical birth and the desire to be more self-empowered, and partially to help other women realize the same.  (Later it had nothing to do with this for me, but was solely about nonviolence for the new arrivals!)The second movement was natural health and herbal medicine (which has gone hand-in-hand with homebirth) and subsequently led me to become a naturopathic doctor and researcher of Cannabis as medicine.  One thing common to both of these interests is that they used to be considered “hippy”, counterculture phenomenon and today they have both become more mainstream.  And in the end, both of these choices are tantamount to freedom!  

Here are what I see to be a few elemental similarities between homebirth and Cannabis as medicine:

1) Affordability- there is a relative lowcost for both homebirth and Cannabis as medicine compared to hopsital/pharmaceuticals and this applies whether or not one has access to healthcare insurance. 

2) Risk/benefit ratio- there is a relative measure of safety at a homebirth that is due to the lace of hospital intervention.  Likewise, there can be a risk reduction when discountinuing a number of pharmaceutical drugs in favor of using Cannabis.  The effects of a treatment that produce a negative outcome are called “iatrogenic”, so in alignment with the idea of “not messing with Mother Nature” both homebirth and Cannabis and medicine are more aligned with this value;  

3) Effectiveness- if measured by empowerment, quality of life and outcome, both homebirth and Cannabis as medicine have these in common.

To describe a couple of other abstruse analogies between these two movements, consider both of these practices from a more anthropological perspective.  The first method common to both homebirth and medical Cannabis is the attempt to dismantle hegemonic authority. What does this mean??  This means that people are questioning what the perceived “authorities” attempt at domination over others by forcing certain prescribed rituals or medicine.

The medicalization of childbirth and the medicalization of health have parallels in the emergence of “Western” medicine.  Both homebirth and alternative health and healing could be considered as ethical challenges to the status quo.  However, contemporary homebirthers and medical Cannabis users (or adult users) are no longer necessarily “radicals” or “extremists” rather just educated and empowered people living their lives as they see fit.  

Second, both groups could be considered to be engaged in a more ritualistic form of living, of bringing meaning to and carefully considering how to engage: the body, the spirit, the soul.

Third, the acts of ‘giving’ birth and choosing/preparing/titrating/ one’s own medicine bring meaning and empowerment to the individual.  In this  sense, they could both be considered to be “manipulated rituals of technocratic subversion”.

levi baby

The real common thread between these two involvements of mine is the people!  Both movements are filled with folks that may have at one time been considered ‘counterculture’.  But wait, just because wanting to participate fully in the birth of your child, you’re not counterculture anymore!   And wait, if you think you are going to be all culturally deviant by using Cannabis for pain relief, or to treat irritable bowel syndrome, or depression or just to alter your consciousness, you’re not!  The dominant values and behavior of society are changing!  If you think you could have either homebirth or medical Cannabis (or other natural medicine) in a system of collaboration and mutual respect, you can!

You are now just a member of the emerging culture, deliberately peeling away at the fiction of the medicalization of LIFE.   Our health and our life, how we live and how we die, do not need legitimacy in political and medical theaters.  To territorialize how we are born, how we die, and how we live the ‘dash’ in between our date of birth and date of death inscribed on a tombstone (or urn!) is tantamount to freedom!

CASP public comments to the Working Group

Dear Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB):          November 12, 2013

Please accept the following as my contribution to public comments concerning the DRAFT recommendations to the legislature of the Medical Marijuana Working Group, constituted by representatives from the WSLCB, the Department of Revenue (DOR), and the Department of Health (DOH), and presented by the WSLCB on October 21, 2013.  Our Washington State nonprofit organization, the Center for the Study of Cannabis and Social Policy, is dedicated to the promotion of reality-based cannabis policies, significantly made possible by the legalization of cannabis under Initiative 502.  We are concerned that these draft recommendations are based more in the production of political theater than in the realities of currently existing patient access, on the one hand, and a lack of understanding about Washington State cannabis markets on the other.  We do, however, understand that the legislature is responding to an absence of regulatory frameworks around medical cannabis, and that there is a compelling need to do so.  We propose a simple, pragmatic two-step solution that would minimize cost to taxpayers and preserve patient access, while hardly affecting potential state revenues.  We propose that the legislature re-visit a bill they already approved, but was then substantively section-vetoed by the governor’s office in 2011.  And we propose that the state establish a scientific commission to study the realities of patient access to medical cannabis.

The perceived lack of medical cannabis regulation in Washington State is the direct result of former Governor Christine Gregoire’s 2011 section veto of key regulatory provisions in 69.51A.045.    This is illustrated by the following quote from a Seattle Times article dated April 29, 2011:

The governor took a combative posture in vetoing most of the bill, which would have licensed and regulated medical-marijuana dispensaries and grow operations, and given patients broader arrest protection … Recent letters from U.S. Attorneys around the country, including Washington’s two federal prosecutors, threatening more aggressive action against medical-marijuana programs and state workers enforcing them show a “changed landscape,” she said.

That logic, that explicit regulation might expose state employees to Federal sanction, was rendered irrelevant by U.S. Attorney General Cole’s Department of Justice memo dated August 29, 2013 (“Cole 2”).  As you well know, the Cole 2 memo explicitly states that as long as state regulatory frameworks meet eight conditions, the Federal government will allow state experiments with legalization.  There is nothing in the memo that bans state medical marijuana regulation, as long as those regulations are clear, substantive, and do not violate any of the eight conditions.  Washington State’s absence of clear regulatory frameworks for medical marijuana is clearly the result of Gregoire’s 2011 section vetoes.  If they had not happened, Washington State would be in Colorado’s position and there would be no need for your Working Group’s recommendations.

Therefore, the WSLCB should recommend a clear course of action to the legislature: establish a commission to study what was vetoed; modify to reflect the current landscape; and re-submit for executive signature, given the opening created by Cole 2.

I-502 said nothing about medical cannabis when the voters passed it, and it is a perversion of public initiative process for the state legislature, or any public stakeholder including the governor’s office and the Department of Revenue, to use it to dismantle the existing system of patient access.  The WSLCB was tasked with creating a workable legal system, not with destroying what is currently working for patient access.  Despite the Working Groups’ affirmation that patients now have a safe, legal alternative, the fact is that not one license has been given and the legal market will have a lot of kinks to work out.  No honest stakeholder disputes this.  It should be given space to work out these kinks without dragging patient access into the messiness.  Any recommendation that is based on asserting the viability of something that does not exist, has never been attempted, and/or is an optimistic projection, cannot be put forward to the legislature as a foundation for sound policy making.

As a result: each recommendation for which I-502 does not explicitly have a correlating mandate (designated “N/A” in the recommendations) should be withdrawn or amended to explicitly mandate credible, substantive studies of their potential effects on patients and patient access before being revisited at a later date.  That includes Section 2, establishing a mandatory patient registry; 3, regulations regarding health care professionals; and 4, eliminate collective gardens.  Sections 1, 5, and 6 are also problematic, but given the severity of our organization’s recommendation to completely eliminate sections 2, 3, and 4, our comments will focus on these.

We assert that the central problem with the Working Group’s competence and credibility is that it is comprised of state agencies with zero expertise in medical cannabis.  The secondary problems are corollaries: the DOR has no expertise in how licit cannabis markets are affected by quasi-licit medical markets and illicit markets that constitute the main competitors to legal cannabis markets; the DOH has no expertise in medical cannabis; and the LCB’s recently acquired field of knowledge is bounded by licit market regulation, not medical market regulation.  The problem is a profound lack of formal knowledge, in the absence of which politics rule the day over common sense.

The DOR bases its precise calculations on BOTEC’s work.  The acronym “BOTEC” stands for “back of the envelope calculations.”  Another acronym would have worked: SWAG, for scientific wild-ass guess.  The state’s contractor’s numbers are precise but accuracy is not the same as precision, and those numbers are suspect for a number of reasons but most of all, because BOTEC was mostly an outsider organization with no prior knowledge of Washington cannabis markets, much less knowledge about medical cannabis markets in the big picture, which includes a much more significant illicit cannabis markets.  BOTEC did come to the realization that medical markets are a tiny fraction of the overall cannabis markets in Washington State, relative to illicit markets.  This should mean, to you and to the legislature, that the State does not have a substantive economic interest in protecting licit state cannabis markets from quasi-licit medical cannabis markets, and that expensive and detailed regulation can only cost more than it would save.  It makes no economic sense, and the only way to explain this obsession is that it makes political capital for certain stakeholders.

This applies especially to the recommendation to ban “collective gardens,” which are quite different from commercial store fronts.  The true collective garden can be identified by its social relations of production: I recommend that the Working Group read a book titled “Dying to Get High, Dr. Wendy Chapkiss’ outstanding ethnography of the Wo/man’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana.  Patient participation in collective gardens can be important as cannabis consumption when it comes to palliative care.  Banning collective gardens hurts existing and potential patient access, and is therefore a human rights violation.  There is no reason, at all, to believe that collective gardens pose any sort of threat to the as-yet nonexistent legal cannabis market, because they are completely different from commercial relations of production.  If the recommendation to ban collective gardens comes from an urge to ban storefront dispensaries, an alternative might be to ban commercial storefronts.  But if these are illegal anyway, as US attorney Jenny Durkan has asserted, then the recommendation should be to enforce existing law.  There is no need to create additional regulatory work for which taxpayers would foot the bill without receiving any social benefits.  This can only be about political theater, and I urge you to refrain from participating.

The DOH, in these recommendations, would be tasked with overseeing doctor-patient relationships in a manner that deviates substantially from current regulations regarding the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship.  We note that if the legislature is concerned about fraudulent authorizations, then that is an indication that the DOH is not doing its job or that what is being recommended is a system of physician oversight for which there is no licit precedent.  If the DOH is not currently applying the regulatory power it does have, how can it be expected to fulfill the oversight function for which it has been recommended?  Also of great concern is the absence of any expertise regarding medical cannabis in the DOH itself – how is a licit bureaucracy going to know more about a field of medicine that is only now opening up, where research is advancing at a rapid rate, and due to its illicit nature the people who know the most about cannabis as an herbal medicine are the patients themselves; and brave health care workers who have treated patients despite legal risks, because public health should not be sacrificed to political policy.

Finally, the LCB itself.  With the exception of the secrecy around this working group, the LCB has done a terrific job seeking and listening to public input.  You have learned much in the last 11 months or so, but your learning has been focused – rightly – on how to write rules for implementing a legal cannabis market.  This is what the voters asked you to do, and it is not your fault that the legislature made this extra request.  It seems to me that most of you in the LCB have wanted nothing to do with this, and this is reflected by the dominance of one stakeholder in these recommendations: the Department of Revenue.  But I ask you to take what you have learned in the last eleven months and tell the legislature the truth:  all recommendations that might impact a single patient’s access to cannabis as medicine have to be studied at length before being made, much less implemented.  The problematic assumption that many medical cannabis patients game the system has to be compared with the totally unproblematic assumption that many real patients exist and they should not be sacrificed on the twin altars of politics and revenue.  The WSLCB knows this because it has met those patients, heard from them, at public hearings across the state.  That is only half the picture, however: the WSLCB has not, to my knowledge, made a systematic effort to listen to clinical researchers, physicians, and naturopaths regarding the study of cannabis as medicine.  And why would you?  You were not tasked or funded to do so.

In sum, the Center for the Study of Cannabis and Social Policy asserts that Washington State public health policy would be adversely affected by the Working Group’s recommendations as they now stand.  Further, there is no social benefit that would be created that could offset the fact that these recommendations constitute bad public health policy.  Legal cannabis policy must be constructed to work with with other kinds of social policy, grounded in reality rather than fearful political maneuvering.  It should not create new problems that are totally unnecessary and counterproductive in the long term.  We are committed to making legal cannabis work, and convinced that Washington State has a historic opportunity to serve as a positive model for making things work instead of making a mess that other states and even nations would look at as a cautionary tale.

Thank you                                                                                                              Dr. Dominic Corva                                                                                          Executive Director                                                                                                Center for the Study of Cannabis and Social Policy