Employees at a pot farm in South Seattle.
Employees at a pot farm in South Seattle. Lester Black

Weed farmers markets, a program to boost minority ownership of pot stores, and more may soon be coming to Washington.

The state’s top pot regulator said in an interview with the Associated Press yesterday that the state is considering the biggest regualtory changes to the weed market since legal pot first went on sale five years ago. The agency announced a plan to boost minority ownership of weed businesses, completely scrap the state's cumbersome pot tracking system, explore ways Washington’s pot businesses could export their weed across state lines, and allow small farms to expand and sell their products directly to consumers, possibly at cannabis farmers markets.

The state’s Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) is calling the package of proposals “Cannabis 2.0” and is preparing to propose two bills in next year’s legislative session, which begins in January. The last legislative session was a particularly bruising one for the state agency, with a bipartisan group of lawmakers claiming in a letter to the governor that the LCB had a “toxic culture” of enforcement. It looks like the LCB is proactively getting ahead of this legislative session.

Rick Garza, the executive director of the LCB, told the AP that the agency has already proposed two bills to tackle part of their “Cannabis 2.0” project. One bill would create a statewide “social equity” program to help boost minority ownership of pot businesses, and the other bill would allow small farms to sell directly to people enrolled in the state’s medical cannabis program.

Garza said the state currently has eleven retail licenses that they could potentially award to new applicants. The AP story said that the board has proposed a law that would allow the LCB to give those 11 licenses, and possibly issue even more licenses, to retailers owned by members of disadvantaged groups, which includes minorities, women, and veterans.

The second proposed bill would allow the state’s Tier 1 farms, the smallest of three sizes of farms, to expand and sell directly to medical cannabis patients. Small farms have struggled to survive in the state’s cannabis industry and allowing direct sales would possibly support some of these small businesses. It would also encourage more production of medical cannabis, which many patients say is hard to find in the current system. Garza said the state is open to allowing the small farms to form farmers markets, something cannabis advocates have long called for ever since the state’s recreational market shutdown at least one existing medical pot farmers market.

Garza told the AP that the bill would also allow Tier 1 farms to expand from 2,000 square feet to 5,000 and then possible 8,000 square feet.

The agency has been discussing these “Cannabis 2.0” proposals since last spring, according to Cannabis Observer, a non-profit group that closely tracks the LCB. The Cannabis Observer reported that the LCB met with multiple state agencies in June to coordinate “Cannabis 2.0” with the Washington State Department of Agriculture, Department of Financial Institutions, Department of Labor and Industries, and the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. The observer said the LCB plans to host a “Cannabis 2.0” meeting sometime in October.