As the home of a statewide law practice exclusively centered on marijuana, Elma just didn’t quite work for attorney Chris Crew.
So earlier this year, after five years in practice, he moved to Lakewood. His general practice in Grays Harbor County, he said last week, “was a real downer. I wasn’t cut out for that. It was depressing every day.”
It’s different with pot law.
“It’s a nonstop positive feeling,” Crew said. “There’s good energy. People are hopeful, excited. It’s pretty uplifting. It’s fun, invigorating.”
Crew helps his clients — primarily from Washington and primarily involved with recreational rather than medical cannabis — navigate the still-choppy seas of legality. He assists them with issues concerning licensing and compliance with state law. He helps establish partnerships, shareholder agreements and leases. He acts as a matchmaker between cannabis-industry investors and the growers, processors and retailers who are in search of investment.
“There are lots of people who want to invest, and lots of people who need money,” he said.
Crew soon will open a second office in Raymond, where the Port of Willapa Harbor is turning the former moribund mill town into a marijuana mecca.
He also has established a series of two-day seminar-workshops showcasing industry representatives from insurance, accounting, political lobbying and industry vendors.
At 37, Crew lives with his wife (and former debate team partner at the University of Oregon) in Thurston County.
He predicts the industry will become more settled in coming months as the retail price of marijuana drops to black-market and medicinal-sales levels.
What might not soon change, he said, is the federal view that sees cannabis as illegal and on a par with heroin.
“This is such a political tinderbox,” he said. There’s tinder too in the prohibitions and moratoriums imposed by various municipalities on state-licensed marijuana-related businesses.
“I think they’ll go by the wayside eventually,” Crew said. “People are using (marijuana) and buying it elsewhere. They’re losing out on the taxes. (They’re) throwing their economy under the bus for a political belief. I think they’re being honest, but they’re wrong.”
He is pleased that the next round of licenses in the state will be awarded on merit rather than by lottery. He expects that medicinal marijuana shops will likely — and in one way or another — disappear.
And after Elma, after Lakewood, after Raymond, Crew said he is looking south toward Oregon.
“I want to start a Portland office,” he said.
After that, who knows?
“It’s quite an experiment, and it’s an experiment with an age-old question about what the role of government is. We had some problems with our model (in Washington),” he said.
“No one knew what they were doing.”