Shawn DeNae Eddy Wagenseller
Washington Bud Company
Smokey Point, WA
It was high time to have a summer party and reconvene industry stakeholders to gather and exchange opinions. The Policy Pot Party and Political Fundraiser event was the result. Presented by the Washington Sun and Craft Growers Association, this gathering was the first in a long time that felt like cannabis-culture-meets-politics in a friendly, private venue.
Familiar faces mingled with new to discuss a plethora of topics, all circling the reality that cannabis cultivators need the rules and laws to evolve so that our small businesses are more viable and secure for the future.
The reality that small, craft brewers and wine makers almost disappeared when large production companies flooded the markets is a lesson in history we must learn quickly. Those craft industries took decades to claw their way back to significance by joining together and passing laws that gives them tax breaks and privileges, like selling directly to consumers. Craft companies are now models of quality and ingenuity, bucking the trend of bargain brands and taking enough of the consumer pie to be relevant.
Cannabis regulations mostly follow alcohol regulations, yet the direct sales model still alarms government folks. There is much work to do to overcome the unfounded fears and misplaced moralities that continue to besiege cannabis-touching businesses.
At the event, we discussed the need of cultivators to be regulated by the Department of Agriculture, which is mandated to consider market conditions, instead of by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, which is not. Topics also included out-of-state ownership changes, allowing home-grow, revising taxes on patients, synthetic cannabinoid conversions, consolidation of licenses, supporting social equity efforts, expanding license types, what it means to be “craft” and overall market conditions. It was robust and passionate and gave me hope that tough topics can be brought to light and discussed in a forward-thinking manner.
A revealing exercise asked the crowd to describe the market. The word bubble created as a result sums up the current sentiment in Washington state. “Overtaxed” is the reigning concern.
Craft cannabis cultivators not only need more ways to market, but we also need a less burdensome tax structure. Business and agricultural tax exemptions were stripped away from Washington cannabis licensees in 2014. As an example, cultivators pay sales taxes on our cost of goods. Those goods are then taxed again at 37% excise plus nearly 10% sales tax. That is triple taxation, never a good thing for business.
I think it’s high time the discussions continue. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to add to the conversation.