Report Card I-502: How is Legalization Going?

video by Steve Hyde

by Dominic Corva, Executive Director

My first Hemposium panel for Hempfest 2014 brought together Don Skakie, Reverend Cannabis, Kevin Oliver, Shawn Denae and yours truly to report on how legalization is going.  It was moderated by CASP Board member Don E. Wirtschafter, sort of, in a highly entertaining fashion.  What’s missing from the beginning of this video is Don’s acknowledgement that he needed a moderator for his moderating, given his own frustrations with the licensing process; and that I should step in.  We had discussed this previously in a slightly different context, so I was highly entertained by the way it played out.  This was by far the most fun panel I’ve ever participated in, as a result.

The video captures Don’s introductory grievance, and before I can get a substitute moderation in Don Skakie — who is a really great guy — jumped in to talk about the alternative legislative initiative he was promoting to replace I-502.  As the minutes ticked by without any reference to what was actually going on with legalization in this state, Shawn Denae and I plotted an intervention.  Right when I was about to interrupt, he wound down his comments and I got us more focused by providing a 2 minute time limit for introductory comments and a request that we stick to the subject of the panel.

My own comments urged the crowd to think about each of the folks on the stage, including Don, as ethnographic examples of what was going on right now. Don’s frustrations are shared by many, but folks like Kevin Oliver, who is an approved Tier 3 producer, provide the examples we need to know about in order to understand the process as it is taking shape.  I provided some of the analysis you can read on this site, while supplementing with more recent ethnographic context from Active and Approved retailers, producers, and processors.

I focused in particular on differences between retailers and producers concerning what constitutes a fair price.  Many retailers I have spoken with are very concerned to provide a fair price to their customers, and as a result may view wholesale producer prices as too high.  The producer/processors are also concerned to provide a fair price to retailers but for them, the sheer length of time since they’ve been able to produce revenue means that those prices are a bit higher — I would say not as high as the rational market price.

But the takeaway point is that there are lots of other factors determining price and availability of legal cannabis besides basic supply and demand.  If there weren’t, retailers would be paying more for wholesale product from producer/processors and also charging more to legal consumers.  If they did that they would be able to stay open because they wouldn’t be constantly running out.  “Basic supply and demand” is therefore a limited explanatory framework for understanding how things are working now.

After taking a seat to cool down Don came back up and launched into another entertaining rant, and things got a little talk show on stage before Don asked us to assign a grade to the Washington State Liquor Control Board.  I finished by assigning a totally different grade than everyone else, and it might not be what you think.  Watch the video to find out what it was!