John Farley, who wrote the state’s request for proposals concerning the hiring of consultants who will help coordinate the advent of legalized cannabis in Washington, came up with several ways to say “I don’t know” at an informational session Wednesday in Tacoma.
Some of the criteria in the 17-page RFP were not specific, Farley said, “because we don’t know.” Much will depend on the rules, he said, and as yet there are no rules.
And so it begins in earnest — this 21st century Journey of Discovery — as Washington gathers the nuts, bolts and details necessary to define just what it means to legalize a substance that is still illegal under federal law and probably widely used among state residents.
Probably? How widely is it used? Nobody knows. That’s one of the questions yet to be answered.
About 100 people attended Wednesday’s session at the Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Center. They came from Washington, Colorado, Montana, California and elsewhere. About half wore business suits and some wore hoodies, casually dressed, and one did not remove a furry hat reminiscent of rainy nights with the Grateful Dead.
For more than two hours, Farley led the assembly page by page through the state’s RFP.
Essentially, he said, “what we’re doing, we’re just looking for consultants.”
The consultants — or, preferably, one consultant overseeing subcontractors — will consult on data related to four categories:
• Product and industry knowledge. How is marijuana grown, harvested, cured and processed? How is it infused into food and beverages? How should it be packaged, labeled, transported and sold? How should it be accounted for?
• Product-quality standards and testing. How should it be scientifically tested to ensure quality, ingredients and safety? The successful candidate must have experience with cannabis testing to determine “THC/CBD levels and ratios, mold or chemical contaminants and strain.”
• Product use and consumption validation. How much will people in Washington use? How much will be used in various geographic areas of the state?
• Product regulation. To assist the state Liquor Control Board in crafting laws or guidelines related to cannabis.
“I just flew up for the day,” said James Anthony, an Oakland, Calif., attorney with eight years of experience as a lobbyist and consultant in medicinal marijuana.
“I expect I’ll put together a team,” he said. “I think the team structure is necessary. Almost no consulting firm (could do this alone).”
Anthony said he did not see “an obvious front-runner” to garner the state contract.
Among the questions from the crowd, one man asked if an ongoing felony investigation would preclude his being chosen as a successful candidate. The answer: it probably will depend on the felony.
The proposals are due Feb. 15 at the Liquor Control Board, and the successful candidate(s) will be announced March 5. Following a period of debriefing and possible protests, the final award will be announced March 20.
A workable system of growing, tracking, testing, processing, distributing and selling cannabis products must be in place by the end of the year, according to Initiative 502, recently passed by Washington voters.
“I am new to this. I just want to know if there is something I can offer,” said Jason DeBaugh of Seattle. “It’s a big process. I’ll go back and see if I can assemble a team to become a viable consultant. I’m just Joe Smith, thinking I can do something.”
“I was looking to see how far Washington has come,” said William Brown, a Tacoma grower. “They’re starting it the right way.”
According to The Associated Press, Ed Rosenthal, a co-founder of High Times magazine and a recognized expert on marijuana cultivation, was at the meeting.
Terry Dean Schmidt, president of Management Concepts International of Seattle, said he expects to bid for the overall contract.
“We have three of the four categories,” he said. “We’re going to be competitive.”
He said he recognized several people at Wednesday’s gathering, including “a lot of heavies you wouldn’t know.”
He speculated that perhaps 50 people or groups would apply, and that eight or 10 would be “serious, and they will winnow from there.”
“If the state gets it right, just right, there will be worldwide acclaim,” he said. “If they get wrong, they’re a joke in Jay Leno’s monologue.”
C.R. Roberts: 253-597-8535