Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Letters to the Liquor Control Board

Some of the letters sent to the Liquor Control Board regarding their initial draft rules for I-502 have been made public.  WASAVP's comments are available through the WASAVP's website.

Today, Washington Cannabis Wire published the letter from Representative Chris Hurst, Chair of the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee.  In it, Rep. Hurst discusses several concerns related to public safety.  Here are a few excerpts:

Security Concerns
My gravest concerns focus on the inadequate rules regarding security, the lack of prescreening of applicants, disclosure of non-conviction drug related activities, and the reliance on a non-prescreened lottery system to choose applicants. 

At a page and a half, the rules regarding security create few minimum standards for placement or types of equipment to be purchased and installed by licensees. By not setting minimum standards, the equipment purchased by licensees will prove to be inadequate in assisting LCB enforcement officers or police officers in their investigations.

Screening of Licensees
. . . the LCB should require pre-applicants to document that they are sufficiently capitalized to start the business.  Other pre-screening precautions that should be implemented include; requiring a sizable safety deposit with the LCB and other ways to prove that their operation will be insurable when a license is granted. No one should be allowed to even put in for the lottery without demonstrating that they have a commitment for insurance sufficient to fully cover their anticipated liability for these operations. 

Criminal Convictions
Finally, the LCB should go beyond a requirement to disclose criminal convictions and require full disclosure of all prior illegal drug manufacturing or distribution activities for the past 10 years; whether or not there have been convictions for those activities.

The Association of Washington Cities' comments are available on their website.  Among their comments:

Licensees Should Abide by Local Laws
The most important issue that must be addressed in the new rules is adding a clear requirement that all applicants and licensee must comply with all applicable local laws and regulations including but not limited to those related to licensing, taxation, health and safety, zoning and land use, environmental regulations, and permitting.  

Criminal Convictions
The rules should be clear that criminal history includes both in-state as well as out-of-state convictions. 

Number of Marijuana Businesses
The rule references the number of licenses permitted, but has not yet identified how that number will be determined.  Cities need to better understand how that number will be developed and how the distribution will be implemented.   

Hours of Operation
The hours of operation from 6am to 2am seem to be modeled after liquor retailers, but since these will be stand-alone stores with no onsite consumption it seems unnecessary to have lengthy hours.

Liquor Control Board Enforcement Responsibility
. . . objections by the public to a license renewal will be referred to the local jurisdiction for consideration.  However, we strongly believe that as the licensing authority it is the LCB's responsibility to investigate and respond to objections raised by the public about any licensee.  Any other approach would be an attempt to transfer responsibility to the local jurisdiction which lacks any direct authority over licensees.  

Cost of New Laws
We continue to be concerned about the local impacts implementation of legalized marijuana will have on cities particularly in the area of law enforcement.  Cities agree with the assessment that the legal market will only work if there are adequate controls in place and effective enforcement against the black market.  To that end, we believe that there will be a need for financial resources provided to the local jurisdictions to help with that enforcement.  We hope to work with the Board and the Legislature to secure that financial support.

Finally, the Seattle City Attorney's letter includes the following comments:

Promote Pot Tourism
We also support the Board's decision to permit nonresidents to purchase one ounce of marijuana at a retail store.  People travel to Washington for many reasons, and tourism is a significant industry within Seattle and throughout the state.  We want tourists to enjoy our beautiful outdoors, fresh produce, microbrews, fine wines, professional sports and entertainment.  We should similarly embrace marijuana tourism.  However, retailers must not oversell to non-residents so that marijuana might be taken across state lines.  I-502 does not prohibit nonresidents from traveling to Washington, purchasing marijuana from a licensed retailer, or consuming marijuana in the state, but we support Governor Inslee's promise that Washington State will not become "the country's export market for marijuana."  We need a strong partnership with law enforcement to extinguish the illegal market and properly regulate the new legal market. 

Public Consumption
I-502 prohibits opening "a package containing marijuana . . . in view of the general public."  It is not clear whether this limits marijuana use only to private residences or also allows it in establishments that may be private and not "in view of the general public" because the phrase "in view of the general public" is not defined in I-502.  For renters and tourists, allowing marijuana use in certain types of establishments other than private residences may be the only mechanism to enjoy marijuana.  This is both a race & social justice and an economic development issue.  Renters and tourists should not be forced to use marijuana in parks or on sidewalks.  We recommend that the Board study private clubs or similar accommodations and propose appropriate rules governing their establishment and regulation.  

Home Delivery
A careful reading of I-502 suggests that bicycle and truck deliveries are neither expressly permitted or prohibited.  We recommend that the Board study delivery services and propose draft regulatory rules.  

Outlet Density
If like state liquor stores there will only be a limited number of retail stores, we may want to ensure better geographical coverage.  

Cost of New Laws
Finally, local governments must be able to share in the State's revenue.  Implementing and enforcing I-502 will be a costly venture for government at all levels from business licensing and zoning to law enforcement and other public health and safety considerations.

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