How Much Pot Does Washington Need?

The State Is Trying to Figure Out How Much We'll Smoke

How Much Pot Does Washington Need?

How much legal pot will the Washington State market demand? This is the main question the state will assign to its new cannabis consultant, who will advise the liquor board on matters of cannabis production, processing, and testing.

Curious and (coincidentally) legally high, I wondered how smart people might approach this question. The obvious solution to me—hire a polling company—was also obvious to people who weren't high. "That's funny, we're bidding on that contract," responded Ian Stewart from EMC Research before politely declining my request for an interview. He imagined every local polling firm was also bidding on the contract.

Before Initiative 502 passed in November, the state's Office of Financial Management (OFM) estimated that we'd require 85 million grams per year to start our legal cannabis industry. That number is based on 360,000 adults imbibing 117 times per year at two grams a toke—extrapolations based on national survey data and a UN report. That's more than half an ounce for every adult Washingtonian.

The state needs a reliable figure so it can issue enough licenses to growers. If it gets this wrong, legal pot stores could run dry.

Dr. Dominic Corva, politics faculty at Sarah Lawrence College, said the OFM's methodology is imperfect, but "there is no other credible way to do this." The task distills to correctly estimating users, frequency, and grams.

"To suggest that two grams is an average use seems laughable," remarks cannabis researcher Dr. Michelle Sexton. Her patients reported a typical use as one hit, around one-tenth of a gram.

Pot surveys also have inherent flaws, said cannabis expert Dr. Sunil Aggarwal, because some people lie about illegal drug use. He advised, "The best way to estimate population use is to sample sewers for metabolites and back-calculate how much must have been collectively consumed." Shitty methodology—but it could work.

Whatever numbers our cannabis consultant plugs into the pot equation, he or she must address two things omitted by OFM: consumption of pot food and the oncoming wave of cannabis tourists. With more annual visitors than citizens, Washington State can expect half a million out-of-towners chillin' on our grass. recommended


Comments (19) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
It's completely unclear to me just what the rules we've asked the state board of alcohol and cannabis to create are intended to accomplish. Do their goals include restricting the supply of lawfully-cultivated cannabis?

I think anyone who proves that he can do the job safely and pays the fee should be licensed. If the board creates artificial scarcity by limiting production, we'll be stuck with many of the same problems prohibition created.
Posted by Phil M on February 13, 2013 at 10:52 AM · Report this
espato 2
I agree with Phil, this is a situation where the market should correct itself quite nicely.
Posted by espato on February 13, 2013 at 11:28 AM · Report this
let the LCB generate 1 pound and then everybody that cant buy legal pot will quit smoking.
Posted by Jeff Gilmore on February 13, 2013 at 11:37 AM · Report this
UncleVinny 4
Government is on thin ice whenever it tries to set prices and volumes. It's better to set the policies that sellers and buyers need to follow, and then regulate any behavior you are worried about. It reminds me of the taxi issue:… By trying to control the number of taxis on the street and the prices, regulators screw everything up.

The state needs to figure out what they're actually worried about, and regulate that. The amount of pot smoked and sold is probably not the critical issue.
Posted by UncleVinny on February 13, 2013 at 12:31 PM · Report this
I want the franchise importing Lebanese red hash, and other fine cannabis products from parts of the world. Afghan hase too....ohh laa laa!!
Posted by MCGary on February 13, 2013 at 5:11 PM · Report this
MaryJaneMember 6
It's about time somebody finally suggested we need to factor in the consumption by Cannabis Tourists. Bravo!
Posted by MaryJaneMember on February 13, 2013 at 8:48 PM · Report this
ben you're already boring me
Posted by 420dood on February 13, 2013 at 10:28 PM · Report this
3 million lbs. a year.. thats the math.
Posted by doeberman on February 14, 2013 at 9:10 AM · Report this
"Shitty methodolgy." I see what you did, there.
Posted by Eric from Boulder on February 14, 2013 at 1:02 PM · Report this
2 grams a toke? I'm not sure even Godzilla could do that.
Posted by Etidorhpa on February 14, 2013 at 3:57 PM · Report this
TWO GRAMS A DAY?? I make a gram last about a week - of course I'm not getting blasted morning noon and night. And I don't smoke every day. In my experience, you only really get high once a day - the rest of the time it's a waste if you smoke more later. A break of a day or two between sessions increases the high as well.
Posted by kbatku on February 14, 2013 at 4:48 PM · Report this
two grams a day is an average, which includes the "party" tokers who will only consume if someone else brings it and they aren't at home (the majority of all adults in the state), the people who what to get really f*d up and smoke 2 grams in a sitting multiple times a day (the .1%), and then there's the gray area. People who would do it daily or weekly in their homes, and then the medical patients like myself who have come to rely on it to function and don't get "high" when we consume it, but use it as a lifeline. The point that I got from this article wasn't that they are hoping to limit the production or to set a cap on it and then that's it, but to make sure that they can license enough growers in enough places and have enough employees on staff to help with setup and regulation so that the market for those of us who need it aren't left hanging when everyone who has wanted to score a joint since college goes to the dispensary on the same day.
Posted by tinxpot on February 14, 2013 at 11:54 PM · Report this
Its been said before,but bears repeating here:It is better to have and not need,than to need and not have:NEVER underestimate the Power or cannabis's ability to attract seekers of mundane pleasure (example:Amsterdam's coffee shops).Besides,if you're really gonna treat cannabis like booze,then let persons who are of age imbibe on-site as they can already do for ethanol. -----
Posted by 5th Columnist on February 17, 2013 at 12:49 PM · Report this
Will hemp growers in this state get priority over foreign growers?
Posted by 5th Columnist on February 17, 2013 at 12:51 PM · Report this
Perhaps now that it’s legal and the stigma’s gone, rather than relying on research groups’ findings people will be willing to report their own usage? As for me, an eighth lasts around 3 weeks (however, due to the annoying continuing difficulty of procurement it’s been about 6 weeks since I’ve had any- so I guess that adversely affects my stats). Caveat: I'd much rather they estimate high!
Posted by gypsysattva on February 18, 2013 at 6:37 PM · Report this
this was the funniest article i have read in ages. I LOVE my State!
Posted by samnsara on February 19, 2013 at 1:32 PM · Report this
Kief...KIEF ...kief....KIEf...
Posted by gymbags on February 22, 2013 at 5:37 AM · Report this
Fact:humans who use cannabis (the word "marijuana" is racist;please don't use it) live longer and healthier lives than humans who DON'T use it.(Besides,half the plants in your yard can kill you,unlike cannabis,but THEY'RE not illegal,are they?Pfft! *rolls eyes*) ----
Posted by 5th Columnist on March 4, 2013 at 4:16 PM · Report this
Ask the Dutch.
Posted by 5th Columnist on March 4, 2013 at 4:17 PM · Report this

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