If Initiative 502 passes, who’s going to grow all the pot?

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by ALLEN SCHAUFFLER / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on October 31, 2012 at 6:48 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 31 at 7:00 PM

In the voter’s pamphlet, the State estimates growers will have to produce enough marijuana to keep 363,000 residents stoned and happy and in some cases fighting off the pain of debilitating and fatal diseases and conditions.

The figure they’ve come up with (through a variety of formulas) is that all those smokers will need 85-million grams of pot or 85 metric tons a year. That’s 93 regular tons or about as much pot as would fill most of a 747-200 freighter’s cargo hold. That’s a lot of pot.

So who’s going to grow it? Probably people like Jeff Gilmore of Thurston County.

“I’m a professional marijuana cultivator,” he said with evident pride. “I’ve had a pretty nice life from it. I’m looking forward to the day its legalized and I can make the transition.”

Jeff has been growing, selling and in many cases giving away weed since he got out of college 35 years ago. Because of security concerns he didn’t want us to show the outside of his house but he did take us inside his grow operation. He described it as one of his smaller indoor farms.

The state will hand out licenses to grow marijuana and Jeff hopes to get one. In the Voters Pamphlet, the State uses the figure of 100 growers in its assumptions about cost and production.

Jeff says they’ll need a lot more growers than that and he expects the competition to be intense. And he says finding the people with the know-how and the equipment and the facilities probably won’t be a problem.

“There are probably 10,000 of these operations, this size, in the State of Washington right now," he says as he looks around at his 14 plants of ready-to-harvest "God-Bud."

"Just here in Thurston County I know of four warehouses that are packed with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of plants. Commercial operations, completely unregulated, just crying to pay taxes.”

The Liquor Control Board (with help from the Agriculture Department and the Health Department) will take a year to formulate the rules under which pot will be grown, licenses will be doled out and pot-only stores will be set up and run. Lots of little details that Jeff Gilmore will keep an eye on.

“This is a new industry and we have some very important decisions to make that I hope will be very successful in creating jobs for Washingtonians," he said.

He has a vision that he and others in the State can set pot-growing standards that others across the country can follow.

“What Kentucky did for bourbon, Washington can do for marijuana.”

He also has a vision of living a new kind of life, open and honest, after years of keeping a very low profile and in one case being convicted of a drug felony. Gilmore barely understands what the change could mean for him.

“I don’t know,” he says, an amazed smile spreading across his face. “What was it like the day after the end of the Civil War? The day after the Berlin Wall fell? I’m free.”

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