Eastern Washington farmers mingled with slickly dressed potential marijuana retailers in Spokane on Wednesday, all eager to grab a piece of the state’s blossoming licensed pot industry.
“I started out about a year and a half ago,” said Sam Calvert, a sport-coated entrepreneur currently eyeing Spokane office space for his planned retail pot venture. “I want to get in on the ground level.”
Dozens of like-minded businesspeople packed two meeting rooms of the Spokane Convention Center on Wednesday, questioning officials from the Washington Liquor Control Board about the licensing process. The workshop was the third of seven planned events around the state for people interested in growing, packaging and selling recreational marijuana, legal under a state initiative passed by voters last year, to receive direct guidance from state officials on how to apply.
Seated several rows back were Steve and Margaret Walser, who have grown organic specialty crops on about 700 acres in the area for more than 30 years. The couple recently received approval from the board to process some of their blueberries into wine and are now interested in a license to grow pot both indoors and outside to supplement their income.
Steve Walser’s hand shot up during the multiple Q-and-A sessions throughout the two-hour workshop, with questions ranging from the broad to the esoteric. Before the meeting, Walser said he was concerned about whether he’d be able to spread the licensed maximum square-footage of plants among multiple indoor and outdoor locations (he can, if the operations are in zones approved by local agencies). He also told a contractor charged with handling the online submission of application materials that he hoped the process would go smoother than the Affordable Care Act rollout.
“You weren’t involved in helping to design the Obamacare website, were you?” Walser asked, as the room’s occupants chuckled.
Margaret Walser said she was pleased with the presentation and praised Liquor Control Board officials for their patience and professionalism.
“I just wanted to go up to them and say, ‘Thank you for being so awesome,’ ” Walser said.
Cindy and Scott Kambrich recently bought some land south of Clarkston and are looking at establishing an indoor grow of their own, they said. They’re hoping to find a niche market among clients in the less-populated areas of southeast Washington.
“I know it’s changing quickly,” Cindy Kambrich said of the atmosphere surrounding licensed marijuana sales.
Kevin Oliver, executive director with the state’s branch of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, attended the session looking “to dip (his) toe in the water,” he said.
“This is the tip of the spear,” said Oliver, who said he hadn’t decided what type of marijuana-industry license he’d seek. “I always had confidence it was going to work out OK.”
After the presentation, Calvert stood outside the meeting room, doling out business cards stamped with his trademarked business name, Green Star Cannabis, to growers and processors. The meeting offered him a rare networking opportunity, the self-avowed nonactivist said.
“I think staying abreast of what’s going on is important for everybody – producers, processors and retailers,” Calvert said.
For Steve Walser, the meeting afforded the strange opportunity to talk pot with government officials.
“It’s kind of weird this is happening, after all those years underground,” Walser said.