Will Washington's Liquor and Cannabis Board Be More Efficient Under Its New Name?

The historically slow LCB is now charged with licensing medical as well as recreational suppliers.


Jacob Sullum

As of July, the Washington State Liquor Control Board will be known as the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board. The name change, ordered by a law that the state legislature enacted last month, preserves the board's initials, which should save money on mongrammed briefcases and handkerchiefs. The same law instructs the LCB to incorporate medical marijuana suppliers into the recreational industry created by I-502, the legalization initiative that voters approved in 2012. The Associated Press reports that the LCB expects to receive applications from 825 medical outlets and grant licenses to half of them based on a "merit system." Washington currently has more than 1,000 medical marijuana dispensaries, but only those that predate I-502 will be eligible.

In short, if all goes as planned, the new law will slash the number of medical suppliers by about two-thirds. Alex Cooley, vice president of Solstice, a medical marijuana producer in Seattle, told A.P. he hopes regulators will license as many responsible operators as possible. "Many people have been doing this for up to 10 years now," he said, "and have been serving their communities and taking care of many sick people and doing it in a compassionate way."

To get a sense of how smoothly this process is likely to go, consider the LCB's track record in implementing I-502. According to the agency's latest weekly report, it has issued 156 licenses to retailers, 138 of which are open for business. That's less than half the 334 retail licenses the LCB said it planned to issue statewide, a number that was criticized as inadequate. By comparison, Ohio's proposed Marijuana Legalization Amendment envisions about 1,100 pot shops—more than three times as manny—in a state with a population that is 64 percent larger. Washington's regulators have issued 472 licenses to marijuana producers, of which 131 are awaiting inspection or the completion of new construction; more than 1,700 applications are still listed as pending.

The new system of licensed medical marijuana suppliers is supposed to be up and running by July 1, 2016, at which point old-style "collective gardens" will no longer be allowed. Since the licensed recreational industry is still a work in progress more than two years after I-502 took effect, that may be overambitious.

More on Washington's bumpy road to legalization here and here

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  1. We’re giving everybody free medical chickens, and the whole process is going to be supervised by the Board of Foxes.

  2. Will Washington’s Liquor and Cannabis Board Be More Efficient Under Its New Name?

    Not a chance.

    1. Disagree. They very efficiently fucked up private liquor sales, what says they can’t work their magic on marijuana?

      1. “Efficient” has to be defined in relation to goals.

        Is their goal to facilitate the market, or to frustrate the market?

        1. they plan on displacing the black market by charging triple the price.

        2. “frustrate the market?”

          Frustrate it. 100%. Every writ, every communique, every rule, every regulation has been explicitly designed to keep the market from growing beyond the control of regulators and make sure it doesn’t spill into neighboring states.

          And before you ask, no that is not snark. I R serious.

    2. It depends on whether you believe they are more hapless or evil. If they are simply hapless, they might luck into some efficiency like a blind hog onto an acorn.

      1. They’re evil. Demonstrated, verified and logged.

  3. I assume they have the same incentives to do a good job and be responsive to the people as before.

  4. As an entrepreneur I wonder if I’d be better off selling liquor to Indians or selling cannabis to millennials.

    1. Cannabis to Gen Xers and the tweeners who both have money and no longer have to dtug test for jobs.

  5. “By comparison, Ohio’s proposed Marijuana Legalization Amendment envisions about 1,100 pot shops?”

    Ok, now I’m angry. Why is any government agency “envisioning” any specific magical number of shops in a free enterprise?

    How many bowling alleys does the government “envision”?

    1. The FDA envisions only so many MRI machines. Why should they get all the fun?

    2. Look Paul, the whole reason they work for government is that they know what’s best for us, even better than we know what’s good for ourselves.

    3. Hey, in my town they “envisioned” how many liquor stores were necessary when they finally legalized it here. Once everybody saw who the three “lucky” people were that got the licenses, the city council suddenly envisioned torches and pitchforks and upped the number of licenses (and actually gave the licenses to some of the non-connected usual suspects). But one of the city commissioners was quoted in the paper as saying that we couldn’t let “too many” liquor stores open because then they would be competing for business and cutting into each others’ profits.
      At the same time as they opened the liquor stores, they opened a new Food Lion at the new shopping center on the west end of town. A year later Food Lion went out of business and the shopping center is still half-empty. Still no word from this city council member as to why they allowed the shopping center to be built and Food Lion to lease a store if the city council knows how many stores are “too many”.

  6. Going by the yellowing on the leaves, those plants are either getting close to harvest, or somebody needs to tweak their feed. I’m betting the latter.

    Umm, that’s what some guy told me, anyway.

  7. I hear you can now buy a drug sniffing dog dirt cheap.

    1. For a few bucks, your drug-sniffing dog can be recertified as a forfeitable asset-sniffing dog.

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