Legal weed took center stage at the Bing Crosby Theater downtown on Wednesday night. Three experts hosted by The Inlander made the trip to answer questions from the public about the opportunities and hurdles ahead.
Matt Cohen, the pioneer of medical marijuana farms called Washington 'ground zero.' Cohen was a consultant for the state with drafting regulations for Initiative 502.
“I like the law in Washington over any other law in any other state or country so far,” Cohen said.
Cohen graced headlines in 2011 when federal agents raided his Northern California medical marijuana grow operation, despite actively working with local and state law enforcement to comply with regulations. His hope is that Washington will be positive role model for other states to follow.
“I think the market is going to have an ability to thrive,” Cohen said. “It's going to be regulated very tightly, there's going to be a lot of tax revenue. I think it's going to be a successful program.”
Even though the marijuana industry is moving forward, it still poses legal trouble. Attorney Hilary Bricken served as the legal adviser for the night. She is with Seattle-based Canna Law Group and works with Washington clients to work through the cloudy legal issues surrounding legal pot. She answered questions from when banks will be on board with the market to if employers can fire their workers for testing positive for marijuana.
Bricken said that her firm is representing two cases currently in which two people lost their jobs because they tested positive. She said that it's ultimately the employers written policy that decides how a lawsuit is resolved.
"If you're employer has a crappy drug place work policy and your friend is coming in hungover or has a prescription drug addiction, you have a very good argument that marijuana is no different,” Bricken said.
Bricken was named “Marijuana Industry Attorney of the Year” by Dope magazine. Her recent focus has been what banks are doing with the growing demand for loans to start a cannabis-related business. She believes eventually banks are going to cave.
“The dollar is going to rule out,” Bricken said.
Regardless, legal marijuana sales are moving forward in Washington. Randy Simmons, the Deputy Director of the Liquor Control Board said tonight that at the end of the month, the state will announce who will be the first to receive the pot retail license.