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April 10, 2013 at 10:00 AM

State pot-growing licenses may be delayed

The state may delay issuing licenses to grow pot by a couple months, according to a state Liquor Control Board official.

Speaking to a pot industry group Tuesday night, liquor board Deputy Director Rick Garza said the state is looking at restructuring its timeline for implementing a recreational pot system.

The board had planned to stagger the licensing of producers, processors and retailers. In its initial timeline, the board would issue producer licenses in mid-August. Then it planned to issue processor licenses in early November and retailer licenses in mid-November. Under that schedule, state-regulated stores might open as early as December.

But Garza told local members of the National Cannabis Industry Association that board staff  believe it’s probably better to create all three licenses at the same time. “All three probably need to know what the market looks like” at the time they’re getting licensed, Garza said. The Liquor Control Board would be finalizing a new timeline soon, Garza said, and it “won’t change dramatically, maybe by a couple months.”

“We’re finalizing the timeline based on what we’ve learned  and bringing the consultants on board,” said board spokesman Brian Smith.  “The published timeline has always been tentative.”

The state’s top pot consultant, Mark Kleiman, said two weeks ago that stores may not be open until the spring of 2014.

The decision is up to the three appointed board members, Garza stressed. Staff would be making their recommendation soon, he added.

“We want to do it right,” said board member Ruthann Kurose, who attended the Tuesday panel discussion at McCormick & Schmick’s on Seattle’s Lake Union.

Also at the event was Michael Sautman, who was the top horticulture expert on Kleiman’s consulting team. Steve Davenport, project manager for Kleiman’s BOTEC Analysis team, confirmed that Sautman was no longer part of the team.

Sautman declined to comment about his leaving the team. Davenport said Sautman wasn’t fired.

He had “some contractual issues with a previous employer,” Davenport said, adding he was reluctant to say more about Sautman except that BOTEC had another expert on its team, Matt Cohen of the Emerald Growers Association, to provide expertise.

Randy Simmons, marijuana project director for the Liquor Control Board, said Sautman apparently had an agreement with another company that made his work for BOTEC a potential conflict. “The issue is between BOTEC and him,” Simmons said, not Sautman and the state.

Sautman expressed frustration about the situation in a meeting Monday with liquor board contracting officials, Simmons said. “I think he’s upset, thinking there’s nobody with his expertise in production,” Simmons said.

Comments | Topics: liquor control board, marijuana, pot


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