Lots of pot questions for Liquor Control Board


The phone has been ringing off the hook at the state Liquor Control Board since the passage of Initiative 502, with most callers asking how to become a producer and retailer of marijuana for recreational use, an agency spokesman said Thursday.

The agency, which is charged with regulating recreational marijuana — similar to its previous role in regulating spirits — has received 160 phone calls about how to get into the marijuana business, including 93 between 8 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, spokesman Brian Smith said.

The agency also has received 63 email inquiries about the subject, as well as several out-of-state and international phone calls, he said.

The Liquor Control Board wasn’t the only agency hearing from people about I-502, which sets a standard for regulating and taxing marijuana.

Tax questions, too

The state Department of Revenue — typically a starting point for those seeking a business license — had received about 100 phone calls since Wednesday morning, spokesman Mike Gowrylow said.

“Several callers have indicated that they know that LCB will be determining or limiting how many retail outlets will be allowed in a specific area, so they all want to be first in line to make sure they get one,” he said in an email to The Olympian. He added that many callers were unaware that the implementation date is a year from now.

Although the initiative takes effect Dec. 6, there still are many details to be worked out for producing, processing and retailing, Smith said.

The initiative simply provided a “framework” for recreational marijuana use, he said.

“We do expect to take the full year to craft the rules,” he said, adding that the agency will communicate with the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as state agencies. A “fully functioning marijuana market” is not expected until 2014, he said. It also means more jobs for the LCB, which plans to add 35 full-time equivalents by the end of 2013, although that could evolve over time, Smith said. LCB employment is set to fall to 250 from more than 1,400 once its liquor distribution center closes, he said.

The Liquor Control Board has released a fact sheet about I-502. Here are a few details:

Licenses and fees: Licenses will be required for producers, processors and retailers. There will be a $250 application fee for each license and a $1,000 annual renewal fee.

Taxes: Producers, processors and retailers will pay a 25 percent excise tax, plus retailers will pay any additional state and local sales and use taxes. All funds from the excise taxes will be deposited into a dedicated marijuana fund.

Retail outlets: Stores will only be authorized to sell marijuana, marijuana products or paraphernalia, such as bongs and pipes, Smith said.

Possession: People can have one ounce of usable marijuana; 16 ounces of cannabis-infused product in solid form; 72 ounces of cannabis-infused product in liquid form; and marijuana-related drug paraphernalia.

Price: The state Office of Financial Management estimates a price of $12 per gram. Smith said that takes the excise tax into account, but not any sales taxes.

The Liquor Control Board and Office of Financial Management also will determine the number of retail outlets and licenses per county, based on population, security and safety.

Until June, when the state got out of the liquor business, the state operated 328 state-run and contract liquor stores, including five state-run stores and five contract stores each in Thurston County.

Patrick Seifert, the owner of Rainier Xpress, a medical marijuana collective garden on Legion Way in Olympia, thinks the federal government will prevent I-502 from being realized.

Seifert, who opened his business in February, said he got into the business after marijuana helped him kick a prescription-drug addiction he acquired following a car accident.

“Mark my words,” the 42-year-old Marine Corps veteran said Thursday. “It will never come to fruition.”

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403

rboone@theolympian.com

theolympian.com/bizblog