Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I-502 Consulting Services to Washington State Liquor Control Board: Update from the Bidders Conference

A crowd of approximately 100 attendees sparsely filled two large ballrooms at the Tacoma Convention Center as potential bidders asked questions pursuant to contract K430 for Initiative 502 consulting services for the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB). I-502 is the initiative which passed in November 2012 legalizing recreational marijuana use in Washington State. The WSLCB issued a request for proposals to support implementation of four key areas of I-502 on January 17th, and the bidders conference was held January 30th; all bids are due by February 15th.  Attendees asked questions of the WSLCB and took advantage of the opportunity to network with each other in anticipation of finding or filling sub contracting opportunities

Bidders Conference for Contracting Services for I-502 Implementation with Washington State Liquor Control Board
Bidders Conference for Contracting Services for I-502 Implementation with Washington State Liquor Control Board
The state contract K430 (which Mr. John Farley, a contract specialist with the WSLCB, occasionally referred to as 'K420' in an adorable Freudian slip) will ideally be awarded to one main contractor who will undoubtedly require the support of some sub-contracting services, given the unprecedented nature of the I-502 initiative.The state's strong preference for hiring one main consultant versus four different consultants for the different categories of expertise makes sense given the tight timelines required to make the deadlines stipulated in the text of I-502.

The four categories of expertise sought by the WSLCB are:
- Product Industry Knowledge
- Product Quality Standards and Testing
- Product Usage and Consumption Validation
- Product Regulation

Due to obvious conflicts of interest, the winning contractor will not be eligible to apply for producer, processor or retailer licenses under I-502 during the time they are under contract with the WSLCB. A number of strong candidates for one or two of the categories were present, but it seems clear that a team will need to be assembled with members who have expertise (and who meet the minimum qualifications) in each of the four categories of expertise. A number of small to mid-sized consulting companies were present, along with a handful of experts in analytical testing services, lawyers and an assortment of cannabis cultivators.

The Federally illegal nature of marijuana presents unique issues for a state contract, as some of the most qualified candidates have ancillary baggage such as felony convictions or other inconveniences. There were thought provoking questions like "my cannabis testing facility was raided by the Feds in 2011...as a non-profit under investigation by the FBI, can I apply using my existing business license, or should I apply for a new one?" One gentleman present presented me (a potential bidder on the K430 contract) with a photograph of his graduating class from Oaksterdam University as his credentials for sub-contracting opportunities.

Members of the WSLCB seem genuinely interested in making I-502 succeed. Mr. Farley was absolutely believable when he told the audience "we want you guys to be successful - we don't want you going to jail for doing what the LCB has asked you to do". Of course, just because the WSLCB wants to see successful implementation of I-502 doesn't mean the Federal government isn't going to get their knickers in a knot once licenses start getting issued and things start happening. There are absolutely no guarantees of how the Federal government will act over the course of I-502 implementation. Perhaps President Obama, an alumnus of the Choom Gang, will take the opportunity of his final term in office to address re-scheduling of Cannabis (from a Schedule I drug to anything else). Only time will tell - but the tide is turning in favor of marijuana legalization and Washington State seems to have the needed support of local legislators.

------------(c) 2013 Stoner Living Blog

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