Death of an industry -- Former pot farmer speaks out

The death of an industry - a
former pot grower speaks out

By Gary Bégin
The Wenatchee Business Journal wanted to know more about the demise of a once flourishing agricultural industry right here in Chelan County. To accomplish this, we interviewed a former marijuana grower who wishes not to be named in case of reprisals as she still lives in the community.
WBJ: Do you feel new (& previous) anti-marijuana laws are explicitly prejudiced against your product because of long standing beliefs that marijuana is a "gateway" drug?
Former Grower: Absolutely. I believe a lot of the fear behind marijuana being a "gateway drug" is due to ignorance of non-users. People who have never used marijuana or who have used and have had a negative experience tend to translate their negative ideations onto others. When in truth marijuana is not for everyone just the same way that alcohol is not for everyone. However, people "against" marijuana need to understand whether they like it or not that it has yet to cause any fatalities, unlike alcohol and tobacco have on a daily basis.
WBJ: Alcohol and tobacco overuse have killed millions of Americans over the last 100 years, but those products are still legal and sold everywhere. Why do you think marijuana growers are treated differently than tobacco farmers or alcohol producers who make beer and whiskey for example?
FG: I believe that once again this comes down to ignorance. I use the word ignorance as it has been proven by science that marijuana in no way is going to kill you like alcohol and tobacco will. Yet the government turns its back on facts proven by science. I believe this stems from the moral opposition of cannabis. That being said, keeping marijuana scheduled as a class one narcotic is insane and ill-informed as law makers clearly do not comprehend (or choose to ignore) the low risks involved with marijuana consumption.
WBJ: In your opinion, why has the Chelan County government been so adamantly anti-marijuana grower?
FG: One word, uneducated. Chelan County time and time again has shown their sheer ignorance of the plant and the effects it has on a person. They actually accepted testimonies of people claiming they have "allergies" stating it was caused by local grows. This is impossible based on the fact that the plants grown on local cannabis farms produce ZERO POLLEN. The County is clearly prejudiced based on choosing to ignore facts proven by science. "Smell" is not a valid argument when they initially deemed us agriculture. Prior to that title being stripped away they had no leg to stand on, and they knew it. Hence the back-peddling nature to revoke our agricultural standing allowing a select few to falsify complaints.
WBJ: How many growers were there three years ago and how many remain in Chelan County?
FG: At least 44, now there are about five in operation and only one with a "Conditional Use" permit. All in all it seems to be only two in total will make it, that is over 600 jobs lost raising the unemployment rate by nearly a percent.
WBJ: Fruit growers are treated with kid gloves while marijuana growers are treated as if they were spreading leprosy - is this because of the fruit industry being so deeply embedded in the history of the area or is there more to it?
FG: To be honest it has a lot to do with the "Good ol' boys club". Many of the local orchardists have ties within the county, thus being on their good side even when they may be in violation and/or are over-spraying pesticides onto neighboring houses and farms. Yet the County has turned a blind eye because they are "agriculture".
WBJ: The last group of county commissioners didn't seem to care that they destroyed an entire industry that brought wealth to the county coffers and to many employees, was this strictly done to appease the handful that complained about their grower neighbors?
FG: Yes, and once again I think it boiled down to a moral issue. Keith Goehner himself said he would never consider marijuana as agriculture at a public forum while running for the 12th district seat, which he now holds. This whole debacle was started with less than 20 people complaining.
WBJ: Tell our readers about what happened in the little town of Monitor in regards to "complaint" forms that were left at the post office there:
FG: Supposedly a county employee left forms in the public post office in Monitor stating if you had a complaint here is a form to fill and submit to the county. Unfortunately, while there are ideas on who they came from the post office could not confirm or deny that it was a county employee, but the forms have now been taken down as the local post office does not support that sort of behavior.
WBJ: Do you have any other examples of alleged improper official government behavior?
FG: The list Is faaaaaaaaaaaaaar too long to be answered in one question. Chelan County is corrupt from the inside out.
WBJ: Local marijuana retailers are now forced to purchase their stock from other counties and states. Do you feel this is unwarranted interference in free trade and American entrepreneurial spirit?
FG: Absolutely! You are literally taking money away from your own community. That is like importing apples to Wenatchee. It is insane and completely ridiculous to cripple an industry due to moral issues, yet wanting to keep the stores open for tax revenue all while you are stealing jobs from an area that already does not have sufficient jobs.
WBJ: Is local law enforcement not cognizant that alcohol causes domestic violence on an infinitely greater scale than marijuana?
FG: I do not believe this issue necessarily falls on law enforcement, but more so on county government. The police are doing their job. I will say that law enforcement agencies actually have taken more steps by engaging in multiple studies and surveys with people who regularly consume marijuana and those who don't to help them better assess what someone under the influence looks like and how to better measure an experienced user versus a person who perhaps has never used before. Trying to better understand the effects of marijuana on a user will help authorities make better decisions and help free up the legal system from unwarranted arrests. If anything, the police are more open minded as well as wiling to be educated then politicians are.
WBJ: What is your opinion on edibles?
FG: At this time marijuana is a class one schedule drug. The main reason for this is due to how the body processes THC (the active ingredient in cannabis)  upon being ingested versus smoked. Technically marijuana is a hallucinogen when eaten in large amounts. This is due to the body’s ability to absorb upwards of 90 percent THC when ingested versus a much smaller amount of less than 10-20 percent when smoked. This being said, the state has put together very stringent rules pertaining to the edible industry. Thus taking away most of the risks involved in getting "too high" leaving me (and many others) with the question of why it is still a class one scheduled drug. If it is due strictly to edibles, then keep it to the edibles and allow the flower to be a lower classification of drug.

Sidebar:
Concerning the ability of business and nonprofit entities to obtain a marijuana license — House Bill 1236
Referred to the House Appropriations Committee on February 21.
Reforming the compliance and enforcement provisions for marijuana licensees — House Bill 1237
Substitute offered in the House on February 21.
Modifies how the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) may enforce laws and rules against regulated marijuana businesses, and how these businesses may comply with laws and rules.

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