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US state's marijuana consultant steers legal pot

US state's marijuana consultant steers legal pot

The first two U.S. states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana now face the groundbreaking challenge of starting a pot industry from zero. The first step for Washington state: Hire a consultant.
The team announced Tuesday includes the former chief executive of the company that is the sole licensed supplier of medical marijuana in the Netherlands. BOTEC Analysis Corp. also includes researchers with the RAND Corp. who will help figure out how much marijuana state-licensed growers should produce in a heavily taxed industry.
Another challenge will be shaping an industry that in the eyes of the U.S. government remains illegal.
"These are, by far, the top consultants available," said Randy Simmons, who oversees the implementation of the legal marijuana law for the Washington Liquor Control Board. "We're serious about doing this the right way."
Washington and Colorado last year became the first states to pass laws legalizing the recreational use of marijuana and setting up systems of state-licensed growers, processors and retail stores for adults over 21. Sales could begin at the end of the year.
The Liquor Control Board must determine how many growers and stores there should be, how much pot should be produced, how it should be packaged and how it should be tested to ensure people don't get sick.
The state is aiming to produce just enough marijuana to meet current demand. Producing too little would drive up prices and help the black market flourish, while producing too much could lead to excess pot being trafficked out of state.
BOTEC is a 30-year-old think tank that has provided consulting relating to drug abuse, crime and public health. Mark Kleiman, a UCLA public policy professor who leads the think tank, has written several books on drug policy and crime, including "Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know."
Kleiman also has argued that states can't legalize marijuana _ federal officials would never allow it.
For that reason, some marijuana advocates questioned how committed his team would be to carrying out the will of the voters. But Alison Holcomb, the author of Washington's new law, said the choice of a consultant who isn't a marijuana cheerleader sent a message that the state is taking its responsibilities seriously.
That's a crucial concern because state officials are trying to persuade the federal government not to sue to block the law from taking effect. The U.S. Justice Department still has not announced its intentions.
Other team members include Michael Sautman, former CEO of Bedrocan International, the international affiliate of the only company licensed to produce medical marijuana for patients in the Netherlands. The company is overseen by the Dutch Ministry of Health, according to BOTEC's bid for the contract.
The value of BOTEC's contract has not been set, but it is expected to exceed $100,000.
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Associated Press writer Gene Johnson contributed.


Updated : 2021-05-08 10:18 GMT+08:00