Retailers will be the face of the legal cannabis industry in Washington. The general public will have limited interaction with producers and processors, but they will be familiar with retail locations in their cities, counties, and towns. If legal cannabis is to survive for the long term, retailers must integrate seamlessly into the community. Safety and professionalism are paramount; residents must not be afraid every time they see a new cannabis retail location appear in their community.
To this end, any regulation of retailers beyond the text of I-502 should be geared toward safety and security. Though members of the Cannabis Business Group are committed to maintain the highest standards of safety, minimum standards must be maintained to ensure that anyone who receives a license does not set a bad example for the cannabis industry as a whole.
I-502 limits retail locations to selling cannabis, cannabis-infused product, and paraphernalia for cannabis use. Over time, the Legislature could loosen these restrictions and allow retailers to sell other products and conduct other business in conjunction with cannabis. In the current climate and with current tax rates, price competition among retailers will be fierce, and profit margins will be razor-thin. By allowing retail locations to conduct other business, the Legislature will ultimately free up capital to increase standards and safety throughout the industry.
Finally, access to retail locations is key to the success of I-502. If potential customers do not have a retail location in their vicinity, they will be more likely to turn to black market transactions. This will undercut legitimate businesses while cutting the state off from much-needed revenue. The Liquor Control Board must use two avenues to combat the black market. First, it must offer enough licenses so that the statewide network of retail locations is large enough to offer access to every Washingtonian. Next, it must not allow misguided cities and counties to keep legitimate licensees out through formal objections or zoning. I-502 contains significant zoning requirements as it is, and further restrictions by cities, towns, or counties will be counterproductive.
In the realm of retailing, CBG advocates for the Washington Liquor Control Board and/or the Legislature to:
- Closely monitor retail sales to ensure that criminal enterprises and backdoor deals to gangs are rooted out before they take hold;
- Grant sufficient retail licenses to ensure customer access to legal cannabis across the state;
- Allow intellectual property licensing and cross-promotion among producers, processors, and retailers, so that a variety of business models are available to retail locations;
- Ignore objections to legitimate licensees from misguided cities and counties seeking to continue treating cannabis as an illegal product; and
- Mandate that cities and counties cannot use punitive zoning or other measures to restrict placement of legitimate licensees.