It wasn’t the Vatican, but the state Liquor Control Board sent up a wisp of smoke on Wednesday, indicating it had anointed a set of proposals for governing legal sales of marijuana.
To describe things with bureaucratic precision, the board “filed official draft rules (CR 102) with the state Code Reviser” for “implementation of Initiative 502.”
Before anyone grumbles about regulatory overreach, initiative voters instructed the agency to adopt “necessary procedures and criteria” — and to do it by Dec. 1 of this year.
(But don’t schedule your holiday hookah party just yet; insiders predict it will be late winter or early spring before legal sales begin.)
There will be a two-week comment period this month, and four public hearings in August. The Liquor Control Board will then be ready to finalize things. But beating the December deadline is not the big challenge.
What matters most is that regulations succeed in some major categories.
First, they must bolster public-safety efforts, whether that means punishing operations that violate administrative rules, ensuring that legal marijuana is not diverted to illegal enterprises, or keeping criminals out of the business.
Second, they need to promote public-health policies. Foremost are safeguards against minors receiving “legalized” marijuana or being exposed to the new industry’s advertising.
Finally, they must shape a functional marketplace. The board needs to license an appropriate number of businesses, with the right levels of capital, to mesh with consumer demand.
Our state has an “illicit market that is very robust,” says board member Chris Marr. “There is a simple measurement of whether these proposals are effective: What percentage of the marketplace can we capture with a well-regulated system?”
Beyond the big issues, there are narrower considerations. The agency and its staff find themselves venturing into some specialized areas:
•Agronomy. Security issues aside, the board has learned that raising crops outdoors is cheaper but less bountiful than indoor growing. And it now realizes reliance on seeds is being supplanted by the use of cuttings from “mother plants.”
Waste disposal. Regulations provide details for how to grind up, dump and otherwise get rid of materials that aren’t bound for market.
Optics. Just how sharp do security cameras need to be?
Design and packaging. Initial rules displayed an official logo for state-licensed products, but the art reviews were, ahhh, pretty harsh. Now the board says all products and licensees will display an approved logo. Just as it says all products will come in child-proof packaging. But it will leave details up to the experts.
This is no simple undertaking.