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STEVE ELLIOTT

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Farmer Tom Lauerman is one of the most familiar faces on the Washington state marijuana scene. I’d say the “medical” marijuana scene, but that one is pretty much being taken from us by SB 5052 and the Washington Legislature, who in their wisdom decided to, for all practical purposes, extinguish the MMJ community in Washington state in a misguided plan to “roll it into” their I-502 recreational marijuana market. We had a chance to sit down and talk with Tom on Monday.

So what, exactly, does a thriving, close-knit community like that created by medical marijuana patients in Washington DO when their way of helping each other out — remember, participants are patients — is, with the stroke of Governor Jay Inslee’s pen, declared illegal? (And how barbaric was it to outlaw sharing in a community that is based on it?)

Now that medical marijuana, along with dispensaries and farmer’s markets, is being taken from patients (with a deadline of July 1 this year), those in the MMJ community are wondering how best to protect themselves and each other; especially the most vulnerable among them.

That’s where Farmer Tom comes in. He’s one of a group of activists, including TK Canna, Don Skakie, Jedediah Haney, John Novak, and Jared Allaway, and many others, putting together a new home grow bill. “We’ve got 6 plants for every household,” Farmer Tom told Toke Signals Monday afternoon.

“From my perspective, medical’s dead; it’s over with,” Lauerman said sadly. “Last year, the bills that were put out there, don’t give much hope of bringing it back at all.

“My main reason is because the state Pharmacy Board, the State Board of Pharmacists and the pharmacists’ union, has approached the Liquor and Cannabis Board, and they want their distribution back,” Farmer Tom said. “They had it before Prohibition, and they want it back. So if they’re pressuring the governor and the LCB, it will never be the same, I’ll just put it that way. It’s kind of done.

“So I’m talking to my state senator who’s really on my side, Don Benton (R-Vancouver),” Lauerman said. “He’s been really helpful; he’ll be a co-sponsor on the bill.

“This is not a medical bill, nor a replacement for a good medical bill,” Tom said. “This bill is for everyone!”

According to Farmer Tom, what he keeps hearing on the hill in Olympia is the medical cannabis lobby “needs to be more like the vapor group.”

“They’ve been going up against legislators on the hill,” Lauerman explained. “And what they’re telling me is that if we’re going to have any chance with medical, we need to have one voice. We need to have one unified voice, and we need to have at least 1,000 calls a day to the Senate floor.

“That’s what they were getting from the vapor people: 1,000 calls a day just to the Senate floor, and then maybe you can get something through,” Farmer Tom said. “But I’m not seeing anything going through on medical, with the pharmacists making a play for it.”

Ironically, the same I-502 recreational marijuana merchants who last session pressured legislators (and made a few “campaign contributions”) to subsume medical marijuana into the recreational system are now saying they aren’t interested in the medicinal cannabis market at all.

“Now they’re telling the LCB that they want nothing to do with it — nothing,” Tom said. “It costs them too much money to run, and they don’t want the liability of possibly bringing underage people into their establishment. The risks are just too high on medical, and the payoff’s not enough for them. This is what we were hearing from the main guy from Uncle Ike’s recreational pot shop in Seattle.

“So he was standing up at the LCB meeting last Thursday, saying Uncle Ike’s wants no part of medical; it’s too expensive for them,” Farmer Tom told us.

“I think our only hope right now is home grow,” Lauerman said. “I think we have some excellent arguments for home grow.

“I’m kind of involved with these local breweries around here,” Tom said. “Did you know there were more than 250 new breweries opened up this year — microbreweries in the state? Now, everyone one of those microbreweries was a home brewer before — every one of them. And that’s a lot of cash that goes to the state; all that money stays here in the state. It’s hugely important to state government, and to government in general. It really helps real local businesses, and it’s grass roots.

“So our argument is that to keep these big guys competitive… Well, so what’s happening now is that Budweiser is buying up these microbreweries, and paying big money for them,” Farmer Tom said. “One of them got bought for a billion dollars… a BILLION. And that is like heavy money. It’s kind of hard to wrap your mind around, but these guys are making deals; local people get to keep their jobs, but they buy up these things. So what they’re doing is, it keeps those guys, the big corporate guys, it keeps them producing better product.

“Right now, we’re seeing schwag come out of the I-502 world,” Lauerman said. “But if we have these legions of home growers out there who grow big quality bud, they are gonna pressure those guys up on top to grow better bud.

Toke Signals Editor Steve Elliott with Farmer Tom, July 2015 [Steve Elliott ~alapoet~]
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Toke Signals Editor Steve Elliott with Farmer Tom, July 2015
[Steve Elliott ~alapoet~]

“Washington state is known for growing some of the best bud in the world,” Farmer Tom said. “So we definitely don’t want our reputation to go into the hands of these 502 guys who are growing this mediocre weed. It really gives the whole state a bad reputation.

“Another point to be made for the need for home grow is that the largest wholesale distributor in the world, Sunlightsupply.com, is based here in Vancouver Washington,” Tom pointed out. “They sell cannabis fertilizer and growing supplies, that brings a lot of money into our state. So those are some of the things I think we have that will definitely work on our side, to help them along.

“Another thing I told them, too, is, ‘You give us a home grow bill? You’ll never see us up here again!’ They were really sick of us,” Tom said. “We clogged up their system for them the last three or four years, and there was a bunch of legislative work they wanted to get done.

“So I told them: You get us home grow, 6 plants? And you’ll never see us up here again, except for the serious players,” Farmer Tom said. “You’re never gonna see legions of people in and out of your office ever again; it’s not gonna happen. You give us six plants, and all the problems go away with medical — all of it. Patients will be able grow their own; I’m sure there will be some gifting.

“Right now, most people in our neighborhood think they can now grow because they cannabis, it’s ‘LEGAL,’ Tom said.k “And that’s the way the community sees it. There’s a warehouse down the street, and people are going to have a really hard time understanding why there’s a warehouse full of plants down the street, but Farmer Tom and Paula can’t grow six plants!

“Six plants across the board — that’s what we’re shooting for, with a simple bill. We’ll have the language in a few days,” Farmer Tom said.

“I got to talk at this Cannabis Summit,” Tom said. “And the thing about me is, my message doesn’t change. My focus is always on the small farmer, and how we’re going to get included. I see a bunch of things; I see big problems with I-502 and the standards. I think standards are going to be our problem, because if you look at the vape world, they’re having all kinds of lawsuit problems all having to do with the cartridges and the low-quality products they’re bringing in from China.

“Now, marijuana, and the marijuana industry, and these big bucks guys, is now bringing in and using all the same components,” Lauerman told us. “They’re plastic, they’ve got glue on them, they’ve got contamination from feces and all kinds of stuff on them. Do you think these guys are properly cleaning? No, they’re getting out product as fast as they can.

“So standards are our next big issue,” Tom predicted. “I really have a problem with these grams that are sealed, or these vapes that are sealed up in a plastic bag. If a 13 percent nun is sealed in a plastic bag, it’s no more than 30 days until that thing starts growing mold on it. That’s what I’m telling these people: It’s growing mold on it!

“Next time a customer goes into that store, buys that bud and smokes it and has an adverse reaction, they’ve just lost a customer for life!” Tom said. “Forever, right there!

“The growers/producers like it moister, because when it weighs more, they make more money,” Lauerman said. “The dryer the nug, the less it weighs and a dryer nug will last longer than a moister bud before it starts to grow mold.

“I’m all for mandatory nitrogen sealing on all flower products. Nitrogen sealing will keep the buds fresh like the minute you put them into the package, for at least six months and up to two years. If buds are in the package longer, they start to oxidize like an old bottle of wine does.

“So we need standards in place, because let’s face it. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but I heard that the Walton family, that owns Walmart? Has part ownership in a dispensary in Portland,” Tom said.

“So it’s like game on. That’s what I tell them when I go and tell my legislators,” Lauerman said.k “I tell them that all of a sudden it snaps; it changes. The game just changed, you know, from a bunch of small guys like us, to them. The ultra-ultra-ultra-elite. When they are in the game, it’s over! Now all we’ve got to do is keep control, because I didn’t fight 20 years to get cannabis up to where it is right now, to let these guys come in and adulterate all these products, to put out shady products, so at the end of the day, we look like the vape world out there, that’s having all these lawsuits and stuff?

“That throws us back another 10 years,” Farmer Tom said. “We don’t want to be thrown back! And we don’t want the federal government to regulate us and give us our standards. We need to create our own standards, in our own industry, that anybody has to live up to, and they are going to be high standards — they just need to be.

Just because, if we don’t do something now, all these big buys, all they see is money,” Tom said. “When I was in Vegas, they were talking about so much in terms of financing, I almost fell out of my chair. It was a pivotal point in cannabis, I thought, because all of a sudden, the billionaires were there with their checkbooks. They were literally offering my friend Adam Dunn $100 million to start a school of cannabis. The money is here, I mean serious money. It scared the shit out of me.

“It led me to start thinking in different directions,” Lauerman said. “Now medical, I want to save as much as anybody, but fuck man. If the pharmacists are jumping in and everything, I just don’t think it’s a good place to waste our time anymore. I think last year was the year, and I don’t think there’s much turning back. I think our best bet is to try for a good, solid home grow bill that applies to everyone in the state, so that everyone can grow their own cannabis, and do what they want with it!”

 

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