MAYOR MIKE MCGINN: Tells a pot trade association that this is the new normal.
  • MAYOR MIKE MCGINN: Tells a pot trade association that "this is the new normal."
The National Cannabis Industry Association held a confab last night in the exclusive Washington Athletic Club, swarming with pot-industry insiders and members of the trade association who paid dues that range from $1,000-$5,000, to hear the mayor talk about the future of marijuana in Seattle.

"We have regulations for the number of goats and chickens you can keep," said Mayor Mike McGinn. "Where you can grow marijuana is a decision we will have to make as well. This is a trade association, like the builders, who want to know the regulations. Boy, how things change. It's fascinating that this is the new normal."

Under Initiative 502 approved last fall by voters, the state's liquor board is scheduled to issue licenses and set rules to grow, process, and sell marijuana at retail outlets by December. The city, in turn, has issued a map showing where pot stores will be allowed. Noting the limit on locations, McGinn pointed out that "there are large parts of the city where [retail shops under I-502] are not allowed. But that is beyond my control—it's a state law." Still, he added, pot shops will be allowed in several "neighborhood commercial areas."

For an industry that has long operated in legal margins, this catered, formal affair—populated by eager looking business people in suits hobnobbing with investors—is a radical shift in aesthetics and affluence. Three crystal chandeliers, each as big as a Smart Car, hung above the room decked in blond walls.

Even those who opposed legalization in Washington were newly enchanted. Ed Rosenthal, who has built an empire selling books on growing marijuana and other pot products, fought I-502, even claiming last year that anyone who smokes pot after I-502 passes would have their children taken away.

But Rosenthal swooned last night.

"I think that ultimately, marijuana is going to be integrated into the US economy and this is a way of doing it," Rosenthal told me. "It's good for everybody because there are assured quality products. Regardless of the law in Washington"—which does not allow home growing—"people will be able to grow their own, increasing our freedom, and push back against the police state. We'll be able to take marijuana in the body without it being illegal." When I pointed out that he opposed I-502, he said it was "a terrible law and it will never go into effect."

Of course, Rosenthal comes off as an opportunist who's full up with horse shit. The only reason this swank event happened at all—the reason investors canvassed the room, the reason McGinn delivered a keynote, the reason City Attorney Pete Holmes and state Representative Roger Goodman glad-handed, and the reason there's an industry for the city and state to regulate—is entirely because I-502 has gone into effect. The liquor board has begun a public rule-making process.

"With I-502s passing, we have seen a surge of interest," said NCIA director Aaron Smith, whose group is the leading business association in the US for marijuana interests. "Basically, it's the model used for every other trade association. We want to make sure the industry is represented in Washington, DC." Both Smith and board member John Davis said the event helped expand their membership in Washington—but they didn't share just how many members they picked up.

One of the new members last night was Maryam Mirnateghi, who runs Fusion, a medical marijuana access point, which plunked down $1000 to join. Mirnateghi paid dues to help legalization "compete with the black market," she explained. Asked if she may switch from the medical marijuana market to the recreational pot market, she said "possibly— everything is possible."

Cody Bass, who runs the Tahoe Wellness Cooperate in California, was there as an investor in future cannabis-related companies. Asked if I-502 was promoting the flood of interest and money, he said, "Of course. We're looking at a market with only two allowable states."