Cannabis is a plant that, when sold for profit, is a commercial agricultural product.
Author’s note – what follows is my opinion. The diverse group of folks with whom I shared much of the past year working toward this point in the process of forming the “Washington Cannabis Commission” may not all agree with everything I say below. If that is the case, I encourage them to use the comment section below this post to point out where they see things (or remember things) differently than do I. -Jim
The effort underway to form an Agricultural Commodity Commission for Cannabis in Washington State is an effort that I have been supporting for over a year, and it is one that I have become convinced is crucial for nurturing and ensuring the continued growth of a healthy State-legal Cannabis industry in our state. A healthy industry that enables both high profits for those access points and producers that choose that path, and a viable, sustainable opportunity for those that choose to be smaller in size and/or scope of ambition while choosing to focus on whatever slice of the emerging craft they choose to master.
The draft marketing order is virtually complete. It suggests a structure for the Commission, and describes roles and responsibilities of the Commission. It delineates clear boundaries around the activities of the Commission that respect the Federal position relating to our developing industry and related sensitivities amongst state Agencies. It puts into place an initial Governance structure (largely driven by farmers elected by farmers), and does all kinds of other good administrative stuff.
This draft marketing order suggests a specific manner in which the Commission will be funded through taxing farmers’ production at very low rates generally referred to as “checkoffs”. Our current suggestion is for 50 cents per pound for wet weight at harvest. We have also discussed an alternative involving checkoffs on “ready-for-sale” product such as dried/cured bud (1 penny per gram). Feedback received from farmers suggests the document needs to be changed to ensure that folks are not assessed prior to being paid for their harvest — great suggestion. I’d put that right at the top of proposed changes to that portion of the document. The great thing is … changes that the Commission wishes to make to their marketing order can be made by them (assuming agreement by the Department of Agriculture). It is up to the Commission that the Farmers would elect to make those changes.
On the check-off/assessment/tax issue, we used 3 primary design criteria in arriving at the current proposal which were to:
-minimize extra work for the farmers (use data already captured by the traceability system to manage checkoff assessments)
-strive for simplicity and fairness (everyone harvests wet weight, whereas factoring differential checkoffs for dry bud vs trim vs kief vs cones vs whatevers could introduce unintended inequities).
-keep the rates low enough that efforts to try to “game” any inequities would not be well rewarded and the cost to the farmers would, as a result, be kept low.
We figured these 3 would minimize the pain of paying taxes and maximize the benefit/cost ratio of forming and funding a Commission.
On top of that, there is language in the draft Marketing order that ensures that, should excess check-offs occur (as in the face of a state-wide bumper crop that yields more revenue than the Commission requires), they will be returned to the farmers. Note that I keep calling the Marketing Order a “draft”, as it is really a living document …. and one that is expected to change frequently if the farmers choose to create and support a Commission and begin optimizing it’s structure and role and function and impact.
The point is, while nothing in the document is written in stone, it currently serves as something sufficient for submission to the Department of Agriculture which will, upon it’s submission, initiate the final stages of the regulatory Commission formation process.
The marketing order suggests areas of likely focus for the Commission (largely research and education in support of the market and the Commodity that enables it). Perhaps most importantly, it gives a “legitimate/respectable” seat at the table for this industry’s farmers in terms of being the agriculturalists they are – sharing most (if not all) of the concerns of other agriculturalists driving Washington’s economy from across the state.
It creates an entity responsible to both the Farmers and to the Dept. of Agriculture. It gives the people that best understand this plant a seat at the table with those that best understand Agriculture. It ensures that people that understand plants – specifically THIS plant – and how to grow this plant commercially in a sustainable way are informing our regulators, while at the same time gaining valuable resources and knowledge from them.
The Commission would enable better two-way communication with the Department of Agriculture, facilitating not only better access to the vast resources that the Department can offer this industry, but also enabling AG to quickly begin incorporating knowledge (and data) specific to this crop in order in improve the relevance and impact of those resources. It gives the Farmers direct access to THE Governmental Agency in charge of Agriculture. It lends a voice into that Agency that has the potential to improve it’s input into the Legislative and Regulatory processes impacting this industry. Big time.
I see that as being a huge win for this crop and those who grow it. If the crop and the farmers win, the consumers and patients win (note that Retailers and Regulators and Legislators win with a Commission, as well … but that’s for another time).
A Commission for Cannabis in Washington would help that world come about much more quickly than it otherwise might. A WCC would increase the likelihood that that is the type of world that WILL come about.
There are a number of voices that purport to represent the interests of the farmers of this industry. I am sure many of them do a good job on behalf of their true constituencies. None of them, however, are entities that are defined in WAC and required to be set up under the Department of Agriculture whose focus is on farmers and on supporting their efforts and the market that their produce enables. Some of these groups are ones I’d join if I were a farmer. Regardless, a Commission is different. A Commission would be complementary to a strong “Farmer’s Group”. A Commission would not feel threatened by a strong Farmer’ Group. It would benefit from one and, in a way, be a reflection of one..
What is proposed in forming the WCC is an entity that would be for the Farmers. What we have today is a proposal only. The Commission it proposes will only become reality if the Farmers vote for it (that is the process that is about to be kicked off with the Department of Agriculture). I expect we’ll have lots of good, healthy discussions about pros and cons of this approach. I look forward to participating in a number of those.
The people that volunteered their time over the past year working to get the Commission formation process to this point are, rightfully, proud of what they have done (I am, at least). We worked hard, and we took input from folks representing many different perspectives. What we never lost sight of was that, while this is for the good of the industry, IT IS PRIMARILY FOR THE FARMERS OF THIS INDUSTRY. It’s time to hand the process and it’s maturation off to the Farmers, and that is pretty much where we are now — it’s ready to go to the Department of Agriculture and, once it does, a process will kick off that will enable every licensed Cannabis farmer in the state to vote Yea/Nay on whether they want to form a Commission.
What we have created is not a finished product. It’s a draft marketing order that will, with sufficient support by the farmers, result in Washington State having the first Agricultural Commodity Commission supporting Cannabis in the Country (if not the World). Then, the Farmers can “get it right” by modifying the order (effectively, their charter) to better meet their needs as those needs change over time.
I did much of the (non-legal) analysis that the Commission Formation group used over the past year, and I AM CONVINCED that a Commission will make this a better market, and a much healthier market that can sustain a large and diverse set of successful businesses (both large and small).
For those that choose to master growing indoors, and those that choose to master growing under the sun in a sub-1000-sq. foot plot, and those that choose to master ultra-efficient profit-maximizing automagic sun-assisted minimal-humans-involved farming, and for all the types of farmers in between and outside the edges, a Cannabis Commission will bring rapid and significant benefit.
A WCC would support all of their efforts and would likely increase their profits and profitability. My personal feeling is that the little gals and guys would get more “bang for their buck” out of the formation of the Commission than would the bigger players, but I am firmly convinced that all Farmers would benefit.
Everyone will benefit from an industry where farmers can both feed their families and feed the future growth of their farms. Everyone that is, except for I-502 business owners having monopolistic tendencies, or anyone else that might benefit from endemic poor health and/or desperation amongst those that produce the products sold into this market.
I’m all for “fair trade” in how we source things. I’m also for healthy, vibrant markets. I am for farmers.
That is why I support the formation of the Washington Cannabis Commission.
I am not a licensed farmer … so I can’t vote on it’s formation.
If you are a licensed farmer, then you WILL be able to vote. I hope that when the time comes, that you all do exactly that.
Whether you vote for or against the formation of a Commission to represent the Cannabis Farmers of Washington and the agricultural market you are creating, please vote. We recently saw what 350 signatures on a Farmer’s petition can do. Imagine what over 750 – 800 licensed farmers voting might do. Regardless of the outcome, such a turnout would show high levels of interest and engagement. It would suggest organization. It would suggest power. It would lead to increased influence and visibility for the farmers of this industry.
If you have any questions, or would like to engage with those of us that have been thinking about this and working toward this point for the past year, please feel free to leave a comment on this post. I’ve asked the members of the Commission formation group to keep an eye out and respond as appropriate.
Also, if you would like to check out the Commission website, and it’s FAQ, the following address will get you there: