As attorney general, Liquor Control Board quibble over marijuana, Tacoma business leader speaks out

Staff writerJanuary 17, 2014 

Marijuana plant ready for trimming

RICK WILKING/REUTERS

Pierce County just says no. Lakewood and University Place likewise. As long as the federal government says marijuana is illegal in any form, so it shall remain wherever the federal government exerts control – no matter what state voters have said.

Meanwhile, the state Liquor Control Board continues to process applications from entrepreneurs who wish to grow, process or sell cannabis and related products.

And where state Attorney General Bob Ferguson issued guidance this week agreeing that counties, cities and towns have the right to impose moratoriums on recreational marijuana commerce, Liquor Control Board Chairwoman Sharon Foster stated Friday, “the legal opinion will be a disappointment to the majority of Washington voters who approved Initiative 502.”

“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,” she said.

The South Sound’s greatest advocate for business has yet to offer an official stand on the issue, but Tom Pierson, president and chief executive officer at the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, does have views on the subject.

He spoke Friday with The News Tribune.

“There are so many aspects to this,” he said. “We haven’t stepped into it.”

Still, he and the Chamber might.

“Our business is free enterprise,” he said. “This fits in with free enterprise. All these cities are banning this, but there is still a majority of citizens who want to see this legal.”

He noted a recently issued map of locations within the Tacoma city limits where cannabis entrepreneurs could grow, process or sell their product. But for the Tideflats, the Brewery District, an industrial slice of Nalley Valley and a few slivers elsewhere, there are scant places that could accommodate the marijuana trade.

“We have the Brewery District,” Pierson said. “Why not the Green District? People know us for our great museums, our art culture, culinary. This could be a tourism piece. We should be embracing that, as should the folks in Pierce County.”

Still, he said, “there are so many unknowns. There’s a vacuum there. the federal question, the risk.”

“There appears to be a disconnect between what the voters said and the implementation for elected officials,” he said. “We’ve been fighting the war on drugs and now we’re doing a 180-degree shift – that’s the issue that will take time to overcome.”

Like Sharon Foster said on Friday, Pierson noted taxation, and that “every jurisdiction is looking for additional revenue. Here in Tacoma, we’ve got potholes to fill.”

Pot money helping to fill potholes? Perhaps.

“I think University Place, Lakewood, unincorporated Pierce County will use other jurisdictions as a test, to watch and see what happens. It probably is wiser to see what unfolds. But the uncertainty can cost you a lot of money. If you’re bold, I think there’s a huge opportunity. There’s also huge risk. I think we’re a natural place for anyone thinking of starting a business, whether that’s marijuana or IT.”

“Colorado,” he said, “has been a step or two ahead of us. We’re still missing clarity. For now, from a private business standpoint, I don’t think that legislating by moratorium is good for any business. I think people are sitting back to see what happens.”

And from the viewpoint of the Chamber, he said, “We’ll be as supportive as we would be with any other industry.”

 

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