of the electricity that an all-indoor operation requires. In the hottest days of
summer, he peels back the greenhouse roof and walls to cool plants.
When Moberg made a pitch to the Liquor Control Board, replete with PowerPoint photos of large greenhouses in the Netherlands, Marr said state officials had an "aha" moment realizing sun-grown did not necessarily mean open fields of pot next to amber waves of grain.
Granted, Moberg has an interest in outdoor growing, but he and others see the security argument as a red herring. "That's the fear-based argument the feds like to talk about to have some control of this," said Zeramby, the study consultant.
Moberg acknowledges that illegal outdoor growers in California have damaged the environment by diverting water from salmon-spawning creeks, deforesting areas and eroding hillsides. But legal growing, in theory, would adhere to strict rules and avoid such problems.
And stored under the right conditions, Moberg said, sun-grown weed could last through a year, for a sustainable supply.
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Washington state's new regulated seed-to-store system aims to cripple the black market. Prices are key to that goal. Moberg believes greenhouse production could be considerably less expensive than indoor growing, even with Washington's relatively inexpensive electricity.
Despite all the apparent arguments in his favor, Moberg wasn't able to find allies in the environmental movement.
He turned to Kretz, a lawmaker with a contrarian streak. During a recent debate about wolves, Kretz sponsored a bill that would move wild wolves to the west side of the Cascades. He figured west-side lawmakers loved wolves so much they should have some in their own backyards.
Moberg wrote Kretz a letter saying sun-grown pot was an issue where the socio-economic and environmental arguments favored the east side.
Kretz jumped on it. "I want green marijuana," he said in an interview. "The land here is cheap, we have good soils and lots of sun." Not to mention unemployment of 15 percent in Ferry County, which he represents.
Now that recreational pot is legal, he said his attitude is "let's make the best of the situation, whether you agree or not" with its use.
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The Washington state liquor board expects to release draft rules next month.
While board members are leaning toward allowing greenhouses, key details such as the number of licenses, the size of operations and how they might be dispersed geographically all remain to be determined.
Right now, the board's timeline calls for issuing licenses in December. With the four months required for growing and curing, that would allow stores to open next spring.
That schedule would seemingly put sun-grown weed at a competitive disadvantage, playing catch-up. Moberg said he could have his harvest ready by Fourth of July. He'd like to see the licensing schedule pushed back several months to give outdoor growers a chance to supply retail stores when they open.
"My hope is they'll get settled on security issues and at least put some solar people in the mix," Kretz said of the board's rule-making.
(END OPTIONAL TRIM)
(EDITORS: STORY CAN END HERE)
Meanwhile, Seattle City Hall is rolling out its Climate Action Plan to make the city carbon neutral by 2050; and the City Council's zoning proposal would allow indoor grows up to 50,000 square feet, or more than an acre, in the city. Neither the climate plan nor the zoning regulations mention environmental impacts of producing marijuana in the city.
The issue has not been raised with Mayor Mike McGinn, said his spokesman Aaron Pickus, and McGinn thinks the matter is best left to state regulators.
Council member Nick Licata, sponsor of the new zoning, raised concerns about the security of transporting processed pot to urban markets. "You could have repeats of Al Capone knocking off beer trucks," he said.
Mike O'Brien, who oversees the council's energy committee, said large-scale growers would likely go outside Seattle where land is cheaper. But he said the issue may come up for analysis as the carbon plan is implemented.
"This is one of those rapidly evolving areas on the radar," he said.
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