Spokesman Review gets it wrong on Cannabis

July 30, 2013

A recent article in my local newspaper about legal cannabis under I-502 not only gets things wrong from the start but manages to insult every voting supporter in Washington state at the same time.

The title of the article, “Washington faces marijuana legalization roadblocks”,  (Spokesman-Review 7/28/13), starts with the false premise that recreational cannabis is not legal here and then wanders randomly from there on. The article never really gets around to listing any of these roadblocks to legalization presumably because it already is so. Washington RCW 69.50.360

The story moves on from the misleading title to then question the integrity of all the supporters and voters that cast ballots favoring this initiative;

     “When more than 1.7 million Washington residents voted to make marijuana legal for adults last November, most probably didn’t give much thought to how that would work. Some may have wondered who would grow it and who would sell it. A few may have questioned how those businesses would set up and operate. But the discussions likely tended more toward Cheech & Chong than Dun & Bradstreet.”

Really? Voters here give so little thought to our ballot issues that we are just mindless drones comparable to Cheech? I suppose the few who possibly questioned how these businesses might work are the Chongs.

I really don’t care what the personal political views of this newspaper’s owners are on I-502. As a Washington State voter I find the statement to be rather insulting regardless of how I cast my ballot.

As the sole regional newspaper covering Eastern Washington and North Idaho if their own readership is so tragically misinformed of the real facts then it presumably has only itself to blame.

Reading the rest of the article does seem to support that conclusion if this is the type of reporting we had to go on back in 2012. Or lack thereof depending on how you want to look at it. Once our misleading premise is established and Washington voters discredited, the article then wanders off into several additional subjects at once.

How will it be tested, how to label, how is it checked for potency, how is it packaged and of course all the while how are we discouraging use by minors.

You know, that’s an awful lot of “how to” questions for a bunch of brain-dead Washingtonians that only a paragraph before voted by mindless reflex with a majority casting “Yes” ballots on accident.

My favorite of them is,

“… How will legal marijuana grown in Washington be tracked and kept from “leaking” into the black markets in surrounding states?”

I find that an awfully curious question for the Spokesman to print. According to the articles I’ve been reading in this newspaper for the last 20 years Spokane is a gross importer of cannabis. Since when do we have extra to export?

I suppose that makes me a Cheech since exporting was another “how to” I didn’t consider at the ballot box. Just another zombie that read exporting wasn’t allowed under I-502 and considered it settled. If only my local news source had accurately reported on those concerns back then I’d be a Chong today.

I consider it an opportunity lost.

The last record setting regional cannabis ring that I remember reading about in the Spokesman Review was not based here. It was based in North Idaho. And they were just the ones distributing the goods after bringing it in from Canada. Where, of course, it was then brought into and sold here in Washington. Not the other way around.

Even without focusing on that particular network there is still story after story from my newspaper regarding cannabis smuggled down from British Columbia directly into Washington. I don’t remember reading any stories recently about cannabis being widely smuggled INTO Canada from the Spokane area. Those guys up there are pretty much self sufficient already from our commercial point of view.

So is North Idaho for that matter. “Falling domestic and Canadian supply in North Idaho strains Spokane area growers,” is not a headline I remember reading. Ever.

Nor are there many local stories about flooded Oregon markets burdened with our home grown cannabis. More than one Spokesman article have reported on California and Oregon recreational cannabis moving into Spokane markets however.

The article then dismisses its own printed contradictions and continues on by raising, “The biggest question of all.” Banking and paying bills.

Yes, I know, what the hell does that have to do with packaging, child access, testing or any of the other supposed “how to” roadblocks already mentioned? Nothing really. I suppose this is just the hot button topic among the 19 Chongs that possibly considered I-502, however briefly, before voting.

About a third of the main article focuses on how troubling it is to open a bank account for these businesses. There is a highlighted instance of how one entrepreneur paid in cash while tying up the payment desk for hours while employees had to count the money. Pretty much a long winded woe-is-me musing about how the revenue department will need larger staffing and more security to protect cannabis cash payers.

Only while in the office of course. Getting there cash payers would still be on their own.

Love it.

By now the article has gone past insulting just voters and pretty much includes the paper’s entire readership. I can’t be the only one who has paid taxes with a money order. If there is some archaic rule preventing people from doing that in Washington Revenue offices it isn’t brought up in the story.

Neither is opening an offshore account with a bank that will take your business. Nor is a one-use debit card prepaid in cash. State insured credit unions? How do you even get fined for not paying taxes that the revenue office refuses to accept in the first place? How has the medical industry been paying taxes for the last 17 years?

“How to” questions like those are obviously not considered by the Cheech readers here in Spokane and not brought up. All the Chongs must live west of the Cascades and read the Seattle Times.

This article’s only ray of coherent sunshine is a small insert about the organic regulations proposed under I-502. Most recreational cannabis is projected as being grown from clones. The rooting agent used to grow mature plants from cuttings technically isn’t organic.

Good point.

The article raises the question, answers it as a minor problem most likely to be fixed, continues into further nonsense about testing for purity, then switches immediately to the 1970 Controlled Substances Act. And if that wasn’t enough to keep a reader spinning the entire rest of the section has nothing to do with any of it while trying to explain how testing for potency will prevent explosions.

Not kidding.

Excessive testing regulations will somehow keep black-market producers from also burning down illegal grow rooms. Yeah, I know, state regulations don’t apply to black-market growers, hence the term “black-market” and in all reality these regulations will prevent nothing of the sort. But we have an article with a deadline to write here and don’t have time for rational thought.

The entire testing section of I-502 should honestly be scrapped. That opinion isn’t shared by the Spokesman but in the real world if a retail store sells a bad product it goes out of business from the competition that has a good product. No testing required. It’s called free market capitalism.

In any event, current consumers who might question the quality of retail cannabis are just going to continue buying from the same old reliable, tax-free, non-regulated, organic, less expensive, same potency, black-market producer they already have been. It’s called repeat business.

We approach the ending in this long winded nothing article with a vague attempt at relevance. The scary specter of outdoor fields planted by large producers is used to question the viability of small scale companies;

     “Bigger companies might have an advantage for growing in outdoor fields, which would be the likely source of lower-priced, lower-potency products, said Green, a former real estate appraiser. Smaller operators who control their indoor environments might compete for the high-quality market, he said.”

Other than a useful abject example of why cannabis producers shouldn’t ask real estate appraisers for business advice I don’t see any basis for the argument. None is provided by the article following that paragraph either.

Along with lower potency and lower price the author could of added lower yield, slower growth, environmental risks, weather damage, a single annual production window, predation by birds, omnivores and other animals not to mention harmful cross-pollination with weak or barren strains. All are risks that indoor and greenhouse production companies simply do not face.

How about insects?

I find it interesting that the same article that brought up the organic restrictions for growing clones forgets it here considering the impressive range of insecticides, pesticides and fungicide  chemicals other outdoor crops get to dust fields with. An indoor infestation can be quarantined and removed without loosing an entire crop far more simply and cheaply when dispersed among several greenhouses or rooms.

The real economic opportunity for Washington field farmers is hemp production that does not have a recreational or medical use. As simply an industrial product it is still illegal, banned and is currently not covered under I-502. We can’t use our domestic hemp but we can import it for use from Canada.

Makes sense.

Also means less profit for outdoor Washington fields that produce the same usable stalk fiber, even if less per acre, through recreational production. No mentioning any of that.

How about winter? Too obvious for us flatline Spokane Cheech readers? Something to be said about an indoor crop that can be harvested all year long while employing steady non-seasonal workers. See above about good product, reliable supply, free markets and repeat customers.

Now, for the 19 Chongs west of the Cascades on the coast who might have actually thought first about voting for I-502, then did so, winters mean extra rain. Which obviously means even more cannabis gets grown right? Even if the wind does blow a little more than usual. Seriously, when was the last time a cannabis crop was invaded by clams? Seagulls don’t even eat cannabis plants do they? Winter?

Not a problem.

In the real world outside of this article for the rest of Washington state 6’ of snow makes even the simplest of weeding chores rather problematic. Not to mention pointless, profitless, purposeless and other words that start with P such as pucking preposterous.

Two glaring article omissions are the final reporting insults to injury ending this story.

First, the vast majority of concerns raised in the article, however feeble, could be fixed by just letting citizens grow their own and calling it good. No mentioning that by the Spokesman.

Second, any concerns or questions the original article might have left a reader with remain. As a newspaper reporting on this topic one would imagine that would be a good time to make sure people knew the last upcoming public hearing regarding the proposed rules for Initiative 502 implementation by the LCB in Spokane is;

August 8
Spokane Convention Center
Ballroom 100A
334 West Spokane Falls Blvd
Spokane, WA 99201
6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Maybe even go a step further and include information about the last hearings for the rest of the state on the 6th and 7th by providing listings or a link online (like this). Hell no. Much simpler to only report on it after the fact on the 9th. Informed voters are dangerous don’t ‘cha know. Just look at the I-502 legislation for Pete’s sake.

Yes we can all see that this paper continues to use the negative Mexican slang marijuana rather than the correct cannabis terminology. Yes, the recent Federal DEA raids on state cannabis businesses are not even mentioned at all. Yes, anymore, the Spokesman-Review is just an example of how to professionally scrapbook AP Reports together with a comics section.

Seriously though, if the Spokesman insists on presenting itself as a news source then it really should look at its own reporting and objectivity problems first before questioning my integrity as a voter.

Even if I do like Cheech and Chong bits.

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The West Report
 
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One Response to “Spokesman Review gets it wrong on Cannabis”

  1. itznu Says:

    This journalist is about a hundred IQ points above normal press. The mystery, to me, is how mainstream press can talk about cannabis without consulting a single stoner. “Stoner”, in Eastern Washington, means you are a part of the populace comprising somewhere between 30 to 60% of the total poulation. The mainstream press usually comes off sounding like they’ve never been to Earth.


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