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January 29, 2013 at 7:50 AM

Mayor McGinn: Keep pot biz ‘local, authentic’


Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn speaking to marijuana entrepeneurs at the Washington Athletic Club Monday. The event was convened the National Cannabis Industry Association. (Photo by Bob Young / The Seattle Times)

Mayor Mike McGinn’s message Monday night to a packed room of marijuana advocates and entrepreneurs: Be good neighbors, respect Seattle values, eat at local restaurants.

Speaking under chandeliers at the Washington Athletic Club, McGinn marveled at what he called the “new normal.” It was like addressing real-estate agents or homebuilders, he said, except with a lot more cameras watching.

Noting he was the first big-city mayor to come out for legal pot, McGinn said he came to realize, as a spate of murders rocked the city last year, that black-market drugs caused too much violence. The mayor said he thought legal, regulated pot for adults would make it harder for kids to get weed.

The mayor also noted that so many medical marijuana dispensaries have sprouted in his neighborhood “they’re putting the green in Greenwood.”

He asked the 100-plus pot entrepreneurs and advocates convened by the National Cannabis Industry Association to appreciate Seattle’s virtues from historic buildings to local foods.

The mayor then spoke of the kind of budding business he wanted to see.

“We like local, crafted, authentic. We want to know our products. We don’t want genetically modified organisms. We want fair trade.” His big concern with the new industry: “Will it speak to local values, contribute to local causes, behave responsibly?”

In other words, the new normal.

There weren’t a lot of question/answers last night, but the mayor did say this: No, he wasn’t going to let pot stores invade single-family neighborhoods. Yes, restrictions under the new statewide law would make the area for pot stores smaller than the overall area for business in the city.

But mostly the mayor, with legal counsel Carl Marquardt and state Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, at his side, acknowledged the new industry was governed by a new state law calling for a model untested in the world, for which rules did not yet exist.

By December, you’re supposed to be able to go into a state-sanctioned store and buy a state-licensed and heavily taxed bit of holiday cheer. But the state has only started the rule-making and key Democratic lawmakers are already calling for a delay in implementing voter-approved Initiative 502.

State Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, writing in his blog, called for a one-year delay. But later Monday, Carlyle backpedaled, saying he didn’t have a specific strategy. He was just trying to elevate issues, he said, particularly about how tax rates will be applied to the new law and whether more study is needed in the delicate balance between supply-price-taxes and black-market competition.

“How we tax marijuana has historic international implications,” said Carlyle, chair of the House Finance Committee. “I’m 100 percent on board with the spirit of the initiative … I’m just troubled by the enormity of the task relative to designing a taxation scheme that doesn’t have unintended consequences with respect to the black market and over-pricing.”

Comments | Topics: Carlyle, McGinn, pot


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