Adan Espino may be a relative newcomer to cannabis policy, but he’s jumped into the middle of several controversial issues within the Washington state industry as the executive director of the Craft Cannabis Coalition.
The Craft Cannabis Coalition currently has about 10 member businesses, comprising 31 retail stores and roughly 18% of total market sales. The organization is retail-focused, but also open to state-licensed producers and processors.
Espino gained his first experience as a lobbyist while attending the University of Washington Tacoma, working with the Legislature on higher education policy. After graduating in 2019, he did some work in the transportation and housing sectors, including representing Habitat for Humanity, before moving into cannabis.
“Since it is an emerging industry, it’s been really nice to learn,” he says, pointing out that marijuana is Washington’s fourth-most valuable crop, behind apples, potatoes and onions.
Washington regulators continue to debate several major changes, including the launch of a social equity program and whether new licenses will be granted or new license types created, among other considerations.
Espino says the Craft Cannabis Coalition “flat-out” opposes the granting of additional licenses.
“The CCC’s school of thought has always been wanting to establish some sort of reinvestment fund through cannabis tax dollars,” he says. “At least from what I’ve been hearing from members, they felt very strongly that the cannabis industry should provide some sort of reinvestment to people who, frankly, got screwed by the War on Drugs.”
Two other hot topics are the possibility of expanding the Liquor and Cannabis Board’s authority to regulate all cannabinoid products, including delta-8 THC (a measure supported by the Craft Cannabis Coalition), and the possibility of allowing direct sales from producer/processors to consumers (which the Craft Cannabis Coalition opposes).
Espino points out that direct sales would negate Washington’s ban on vertical integration, but would not allow retailers to own their own farms.
“We see it as a fairness issue,” he says, “and the voters approved the separated regulatory structure.”
— Garrett Rudolph