EditorialsInto the haze

Turning an idea into practice will take some getting used to in Okanogan County and elsewhere in the state, as the nascent industry of growing, processing and selling marijuana finds its way into a strange new marketplace.

Insert your favorite doper/weed/doobie/ganja/hemp/smokin’ pun or joke here. The topic is tailor-made for kitschy humorous observations. If you were a comedian, you might light up over the possibilities. Sorry, couldn’t help that.

But seriously, folks. More than 50 people in the county, including some in the Methow Valley, are gearing up to participate in some part of the process, from farm to buyer, with the hope of making money at it. They will, when their applications are approved, be legitimate businesspeople as far as the state is concerned. You might see them at chamber of commerce meetings.

Local jurisdictions have been struggling to figure out how to accommodate the new trade with zoning and other oversight requirements. The Okanogan County Commissioners, the anti-regulators, declined to impose a conditional use permit process on marijuana operations. Instead, marijuana will be treated like any other agricultural crop in the county. You might want to keep an eye on your neighbor’s field.

The State Liquor Control Board is of course developing its own rules and regs for how marijuana will be sold in the state, so it’s not like we should expect a wide-open free-for-all. The state is even developing plans to send underage buyers into marijuana stores to see if the retailers will (illegally) sell to them — just like they do in liquor stores now.

For all the action and expectation, one might wonder (perhaps naively) if there is really a large enough dope-smoking portion of the populace to support all the optimism. It’s possible we’ll be surprised, one way or another. As with most products, the marketplace will ultimately decide. It will be interesting to see what role marketing and advertising have in that arena. Talk about branding opportunities.

Then there’s the transition from an unlawful (except for medicinal purposes) activity to a lawful one, sort of like coming out of Prohibition — although that doesn’t seem like a particularly good model. Oddly enough, some people who made a living when growing and selling dope was an underground business may not figure out how to succeed in the new world of commoditized marijuana.

Five years from now we may look back on the process and wonder what the fuss was all about — or instead ponder, what we were thinking (or smoking)? Meanwhile, the power of opportunity will continue building its own momentum — capitalism at its purest. It will be a fascinating experience to watch.


Picking up speed

The Okanogan County Transit Authority (OCTA) has barely slowed down since county voters in November approved a sales tax increase to support a countywide bus system. The agency has hired an interim manager whose task it will be to begin building the organizational structure that is expected to put buses on the roads by 2015. That’s a while to wait, but knowing the routes are coming, and how they will benefit the Methow Valley, will keep local interest high. This is one long ride we won’t mind taking.


– Don Nelson