From: E&E Publishing/Greenwire
Nick Juliano, E&E reporter
First in a three-part series.
OLYMPIA, Wash. — Randy Simmons never expected he would become Washington’s cannabis czar. He didn’t even want the job.
The day after Washington state voters approved Initiative 502, Simmons, whose official title is deputy director of the state Liquor Control Board, was called into a staff meeting and asked if he wanted to oversee implementation of the new law, which legalized possession of marijuana for adults over 21.
“I said no,” Simmons recalled during a recent interview in his office here. “About a week later, my boss said, ‘You don’t get to have that choice anymore, so you’re going to be the implementation manager.'”
Thus began one of the most interesting experiments taking place in any state capital in the country.
“I do think it’s appropriate to think of this as a truly unusual thing in the world of regulation,” said Philip Wallach, a Brookings Institution fellow who has studied Washington’s system, “to have a commodity and a type of commercial product like these are that just have been totally legally marginalized and all of a sudden gets brought into the aboveboard regulated mainstream.”
“Sometimes, when we think about federal politics and OMB and OIRA … it’s easy to imagine that every policy must be studied to death,” Wallach said, referring to the work of the federal Office of Management and Budget and Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. “But I think that’s not at all the case out in the states.”