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A Statement About The Future Of StarCrisp Farms LLC:
Original purpose:

When I established StarCrisp Farms at the end of 2013 it was as a hobby farm.  The intent was to manage the farm for two years and to pay off my 5 acre property that I and my wife had purchased as a vacation property. We also hoped to make some extra money to provide opportunities for other life adventures.

It has been a full two years now and I finished paying off the property and I have had an adventure of a lifetime running my business.  I met many good people during the adventure and got an opportunity to work closely with a number of organizations and volunteered on several commissions that are spearheading the implementation of I-502 and taking the Cannabis movement mainstream.

However, the business has not provided the financial income to justify the significant amount of work it demands and I find that other pursuits need to take priority over my hobby farm.

Some of the highlights of the last two years and my decisions for the future are explored below.

Organizations and efforts I had the opportunity to participate in:

The Cannabis Alliance: I am a member of the Cannabis Alliance, a cannabis organization in the state that has the most clout.  I serve on two of its committees, the legislative committee and the governmental committee. The Cannabis Alliance has a lobbyist, and several key legislators that introduce and support our proposed legislative amendments. The Cannabis Alliance also has a very good relationship and the respect of the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB), and the LCB listens very carefully to positions we take on proposals coming out of the LCB. The Cannabis Alliance is and will continue to be a major player in the cannabis movement as it plays out in the state and when the movement goes global.

The Cannabis Farmers Council (CFC): I am also a founding member of the Cannabis Farmers Council (CFC), an organization that represents all of the cannabis farmers throughout the state.  We take on all of the issues the cannabis farmers need to deal with, like opposing an LCB proposal to require MR. Yuk stickers (poison stickers) on all cannabis packages, and more recently a proposal by the LCB to require a custom sticker designed by the Poison Control Center to go on all cannabis packaging. We also review all proposed requirements coming out of the LCB to regulate cannabis that will have impacts to cannabis farmers, such as new pesticide residue thresholds established etc.

A state Cannabis Agricultural Commission: The biggest task owned by the CFC is the establishment of a state Cannabis Agricultural Commission, which will put to bed once and for all the issue that opponents of I-502 have raised claiming cannabis is not an Agricultural activity. Establishment of a Cannabis Agricultural Commission will validate the fact that yes cannabis farming is Agricultural.  We currently have the support of the Department of Agriculture and the effort to establish a state wide Cannabis Agricultural Commission is currently well underway and will be a reality in the near future.

State Building Code Council Cannabis Technical Advisory Group (TAG): Based upon Building Department issues I experienced in Clallam County, I also was appointed to the State Building Code Council’s Technical Advisory Group (TAG) to review and make recommendations on proposed state building and fire code legislation. I officially represented West side growers (all the growers west of the Cascades). 

The State Building Code Council’s Cannabis TAG was comprised of representatives from Growers, Building Officials, Fire Marshals, the LCB and other stake holders in the Cannabis Industry and Government. The committee ended up recommending a number of changes in proposed legislation changing the way local governments have to implement building and fire codes around the state. All of our recommendations were adopted by the State Building Code Council and I am happy to state that the type of political building decisions made by Clallam County are no longer being sanctioned by the State Building Code Council, as they passed legislation that now more properly defines what cannabis processing is.

As a result of new state building and fire codes, requiring sprinkler systems for an operation like I developed is no longer sanctioned by the state, and in fact an operation like mine that does no extraction activity is specifically exempted from new cannabis fire protection standards which have been modified to apply only to processing that involves extraction activity.

Local Government training programs about cannabis: As a certified planner and a member of the American Planning Association I had the opportunity to organize and provide a conference work-session of regulation of the cannabis industry.  I had the opportunity to advise over 60 local government officials on how to regulate the cannabis industry concerning land use and building issues.  The conference session was well attended and received.  I used examples of Clallam County’s dysfunctional system as what not to do.

About the current cannabis wholesale market:

While the adventure of developing and running a cannabis farm has been a learning experience and fun and exciting it has also been very hard work that does not have a commensurate amount of financial return in the current market.  In fact, the wholesale price of cannabis has dropped state wide over the last two years until it is at a level that will not support the effort to produce high quality cannabis. You will not generally see this at the retail level, as retailers are keeping their product costs the same while paying farmers less.

I recently sold a number of cones to two stores in Seattle.  The price they were willing to pay was only $2 a cone, but they sold each cone for $10.  A mark up of 5 times when all they had to do was take the cone from me all packaged up and ready to go and to put it on their shelf.  As a result of this situation, most cannabis farmers are struggling to make ends meet.  Mine is no exception. There are a number of reasons for this and efforts are being made to make cannabis production more financially sustainable.  However, the situation will take a long time to stabilize and many cannabis growers will be going under as a result.

The exploding value of production and processing licenses:

At the same time that the wholesale price for cannabis is falling the value of the licenses for production have skyrocketed. This was the result of the LCB adopting a study from the University of Washington on canopy needs (the amount of farmers needed to supply the states demand for cannabis). The study determined that the amount of canopy was sufficient to provide the states need and the LCB made the decision to suspend any additional production licenses.  What this meant was that all of the current dispensary growers that had applied to the LCB for production licenses when the LCB started licensing the medical cannabis community were denied licenses. So anyone wanting to get into the game needed to purchase an existing license.

What the shortage of production licenses resulted in was licenses like mine skyrocketing in value. At the current time licenses like mine for a tier 1 production are going for as much at $100,000. This has provided an opportunity for folks like myself to reevaluate business plans and to sell their licenses for a profit.

Making the decision to sell the StarCrisp licenses and retire from the industry:

Decision to sell and retire: After reevaluating the market and my financial goals I made the decision to sell my license and to retire from cannabis production activity. I found a buyer and am currently in the process of selling the licenses for production and processing.  This will essentially fulfil my personal financial goals and provide me and my family more free time to pursue other life adventures. I am keeping the StarCrisp business name so that at some time in the future I may pursue another farming activity, such as fruit or perhaps the production of tea.  But, for now I am going to finish some of the tasks I have started with the Cannabis Alliance and phase out cannabis activities for other pursuits.

The role Clallam County’s regulatory culture played in this decision: I would be remise if I neglected to discuss what role local government had in this decision. From almost the start, Clallam County has been a dead weight in the establishment of cannabis farms by mobilizing to throw one regulatory barrier after another in the way of cannabis farmers. After a year of using Building codes as a means of stopping development, with expensive standards not appropriate for agricultural uses, it adopted an exclusionary approach to zoning. New zoning relegates new farms to industrial areas, that are not well suited to farming, and forestry areas with exclusionary standards making cannabis farming uneconomical.

Because of the industry's outcry over local govenerment use of Building Codes to improperly regulate the industry the State Building Code Council established a Cannabis Technical Advisory Group (TAG) to review and make recommendations on Building Code requirements for Cannabis. Based upon my experience as a local government planner and cannabis farmer I was appointed to the TAG (See discussion above). Our recommendations for revision of the codes was adopted by the State Building Code Council. However, even after the state adopted new fire and building codes that should prevent  bias, such as Clallam County had exercised against cannabis farmers, the County is still treating cannabis production as an industrial use, refusing to treat them as an agricultural activity and requiring inappropriate building and fire standards that are not suppose to be applied to cannabis activity. It makes no difference what position the state Department of Agriculture takes on this issue, or what laws the State Building Code Council adopts, Clallam County plugs along acting as a dead weight to development of new cannabis farms for political reasons.

As public officials, it is shameful for Clallam County staff to act like this, and in my opinion, based upon 36 years of experience working in local government, Clallam County’s activities are illegal. But the cost to bring litigation against the county for such activity is expensive, and can usually only be accomplished when multiple businesses band together and take on the issue together.  Unfortunately, at this time the cannabis industry in Clallam County is not well organized, or in a financial position to take on the task of a lawsuit for farmers that are being harassed by the County Community Development Department and in particular by the Building Official and Fire Marshal.

I successfully operated a cannabis farm for 2 years while fighting the building standards Clallam County tried to force me to do. And in the end it was more than I wanted to put up with.  I have shared my story with the industry,  local government agencies,  state agencies, special Boards, (like the state Building Code Council), training confereneces for local government, and virtually everyone I came in contact with that has been involved with the cannabis movement. All of these organizations and individuals are now familiar with Clallam County’s dysfunctional treatment of cannabis businesses, as a result of a politicalliy motivated  bureaucratic mess.

In regard to cannabis, the Clallam County Building Department does nothing to protect legitimate public interests, or help the development community, or promote economic development. It only manages to be successful, through its regulatory culture, at developing one regulatory barrier after another in an attempt to prohibit activity a select group of politicians decide they don’t want.

Many standards required by Clallam County are impossible to meet and not justified, such as a sprinkler system to sprinkle a 200 square foot loft that would require a community water system that does not exist. I have been told by several Building Officials, including the Building Official that sat on the State Cannabis TAG with me, that I should have been exempt from the sprinkler standard because my building was way under the threshold that would require sprinklers.  That has made no difference to Clallam County and it has continued  to require this unjustified standard for the building that my cannabis activity took place.

A sprinkler system was just one example of many that the Building Department has used against cannabis farmers to require expensive improvements that should not be necessary, for the sole purpose of prohibiting legitimate farms. No other farm needs to meet similar standards.  This is a completely unjustified set of standards dreamed up by the Building Official used to wage war on the cannabis industry.

A local building department is supposed to help citizens and businesses alike in development of their property, in a way that helps them do things safe and protects valid public interests. It is not supposed to be used as a means to prohibit activity that happens to be unpopular to a few.

If you liked what Clallam County did against cannabis farms, consider instead similar strategies that were used by politicians through building codes to shut down abortion clinics in the south. Politicians should not be deciding what building standards get applied to what industries, or activities, as a strategy to control activities that may not be popular to a few. Building codes should be concerned and exercised for public building and fire safety only. Politics and personal motives should not be a factor to deny property owners the right of enjoyment of their property.

To end this I will say the county was probably the main factor in deciding to sell my licenses. I could not continue to fight the county and operate my business for any length of time. Once it became clear that Clallam County would always continue to require standards that are only designed to make a cannabis farm impossible in the area I am located, I knew I needed to move my farm if I wanted to continue in the cannabis business.

The decision to retire came down to the choice of spending a bunch more money to move and set up a new place of business with the expectation to not be able to make enough money to cover operations given the current market, or to sell my licenses and make a pot of money. With the business having already provided enough money to pay off my property and meet my original two year timeline for operation, the prospect of selling the business and significantly increasing my financial resources won out. It’s  simply time to move on to new adventures in my life with my wife, my four grown children and my nine grandchildren.

​To all our loyal customers and the retail outlets that provided the opportunity to enjoy StarCrisp products I thank you. This has been an experience I have enjoyed, and would have not wanted to miss. I wish you all well, and a successful future.  All my love and hope for you and those you love.  Peace.    Dave.  : )

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