Liquor and Cannabis Board needs to work to maintain reputation

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The Liquor and Cannabis Board needs to make sure its emerging reputation is a good one.

ONE of the arguments offered by advocates of legal marijuana has been that users will know what they are inhaling or ingesting; they will know its potency and that it is free of mold and pesticides — unlike the days when pot sales were left to the criminal element.

Creating that kind of assurance is the responsibility of the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB), and its work is still in progress.

A story by The Seattle Times’ Bob Young reported that a marijuana testing lab in Poulsbo“showed consistent inaccuracies” in test data and “blatant disregard for laboratory practices as well as sound scientific methods,” according to auditors hired by the state.

The board will rule this week on the auditors’ recommendation that the lab be shut down. Thirteen others continue in operation.

Meeting last week, the board took actions that seemed in the category of closing the barn door while viewing a receding horse’s tail. Emergency rules were approved on lab suspensions and penalties. An advisory group was set up to establish acceptable levels of pesticides. Proficiency tests for labs were discussed.

These are steps that should have been taken soon after marijuana was legalized in 2012 and the LCB was created to guarantee the public’s health, safety and welfare in this new venture.

Participants in the new industry have been calling for stricter oversight of pot testing.

Dana Luce, owner of a Vancouver lab, told Young, “If you don’t like the numbers from one lab, take it to another and chances are you’ll get a more favorable result.”

Hardly words to inspire confidence.

The board needs to make sure its emerging reputation is a good one — a task with challenges.

In another recent action, the board approved a retail license for George Dalton Gehrett, who killed his wife in 1993. He was sentenced to 13½ years in prison and changed his name to George James Garrett in 2011.

Because it has been 10 years since Garrett’s conviction in the murder of Stephanie Rooks Gehrett, the LCB could not use it to deny him a license.

Garrett did not try to hide the conviction. He is no longer under legal supervision and has not been found guilty of other crimes. Under the law, he can get a second chance.

But for critics of legal marijuana, it’s a reason to look askance.

Brian Smith, communications director for the LCB, said the case “has led to discussion of whether serious crimes including violent ones and money laundering, for example, should be elevated to a higher level for more discussion.”

Washington and Colorado, the first states to legalize recreational pot, are “bellwether states,” he said. They will be emulated by other states legalizing marijuana. That makes it all the more important for the board to continue revisiting procedures and adopting the strictest regulations and procedures on marijuana production, testing and sales.

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