Red tape lines path leading to legal marijuana cultivation
Red tape in the form of a moratorium will only slow Shane Kehrli and Chris Bianchi who are in the process of setting up a legal marijuana grow operation in Wahkiakum County.
Kehrli grew up in Cathlamet, and Bianchi followed his family here a few years ago after his mother fell and hurt a hip while working on their property. The two young men met over baseball and soon discovered that they shared a common vocation, being involved in providing medical marijuana.
Kehrli knew even then that things were changing.
“I knew this was coming down the line,” Kehrli said, “so I was preparing myself to get a business. I needed a partner, someone I could trust, so I chose Chris, and we’ve been working on it ever since. The medical growing was preparing us to be ready to grow legally.”
According to Kehrli and Bianchi, the process and the rules and regulations are lengthy, complex and exacting. They are taking it very seriously.
“We’ve signed all these papers stating that we won’t break these laws,” Bianchi said. “We will get the maximum penalty if we do.”
“We’ve gotten praise from the representative who has been helping us through the process,” added Kehrli, “We’ve updated the floor plan, we’re dealing with financial issues and cameras. We’re waiting for the okay to do our building. Then when we get our rooms put in, inspectors will check us out and if we pass, we’ll have our license and be able to run our business.”
Every rule and regulation is careful and precise and they must follow them to the letter.
The leaves of the marijuana plant cannot leave the building without being ground up and mixed with other compost in a secured compost pile. Like everything else, it must be quarantined for 2-3 days before it can even leave the building.
The state of Washington will track every seed and clone till it is harvested and sold. Waste must be weighed.
Growers can only have so many plants or dried product and there are constant inspections. They have to send seven grams of every plant to be inspected by a lab. The lab will check the contents, the moisture level. It will look for molds and fungus. It will check pesticide levels and many other things.
They are not allowed to smoke on grounds. All employees must have ID and will be required to wear a badge at all times. Guests will not be allowed. Employees and owners can’t buy their own product. They can’t fill their pockets with it. They have to go to a storefront and buy it there like anyone else.
They can be audited at any time.
“Please read I-502,” encouraged Kehrli. “You’ll get an idea of how much stuff we have to do, and you’ll see it’s not for kids.”
When Kehrli and Bianchi deliver their product to a processor—they are adamant that their product will not be sold in Wahkiakum County—they have several more rules and regulations to follow.
The trip plan has to be shared with authorities. They have to show how much they are transporting, where it is going, when they are leaving and how long it will take to get there. There are no detours on these trips. There is no quick stop at the rest area or slide into a drive through for a cold drink.
“It has to go into a secure safe box that is attached to the vehicle and it can only go to a licensed processor who can sell it to any licensed store that he wants,” Kehrli said. “No marijuana is going to be sold in town from these businesses.”
“If we deviate from the plan, we could be fined or lose our license,” Bianchi said. “We want to do it 100 percent right, 100 percent legitimate.”
The men know that there are people who are concerned about the children in the community and they want to emphasize the fact that their marijuana will not be available to kids here. It will be grown and sent outside the county to be processed and sold to customers who are at least 21 years old.
The building where they will grow their product will have two cameras in every room and more outside. There will be motion sensors and alarms and a gated interest. If you so much as drive past the building they will have a record of your car and your license plate.
“Our building will be locked down tighter than a bank,” Bianchi said. “It would be easier to get the belt off of Sheriff Howie than it would be to steal a gram of our marijuana.”
Kehrli doesn’t foresee any problems, unless it comes from someone who doesn’t want them to find success.
“You’re just not going to find a stoner that wants to go to that much trouble,” laughed Bianchi. “It’s a lot of work!”
Some people have been supportive of their business, but they are quiet. The critics are more vocal. The two young men have been told that they lack standards and values and that they don’t care about the kids in the community.
Firmly rooted in their families, this has been really hard on the two young men, but they are trying to handle it graciously. Kehrli and Bianchi know that change is hard.
“So many things have changed in our generation and we deal with change a little bit quicker and settle into it a little bit better,” Bianchi said. “Right now nobody is stepping on our right to do this, but they are shaking their fist at us.”
The men would like to be on the new committee that will address the new law and its effect on the community. They would gladly use some of the proceeds from their business to go toward drug prevention at the school. A former athlete, Kehrli is all for drug testing at the school.
“If you don’t want your kids to do drugs, ask where they are going,” Kehrli said. “Call them. Check on them. Educate your kids. Acknowledge that it is available, but teach them to make smart choices. Be opposed to them smoking. I am. Why is it so hard to believe that a person who uses marijuana could have values?
“The moratorium gives them a year. It puts us a year behind on trying to make our business. I’m unemployed and I’m trying to start something for myself so I can be successful in life and they are taking that opportunity away. Give us a chance to show you that this isn’t at all what you think it is. We’ve done our background checks, we are straightforward people. I’ve been waiting for this opportunity to come around. I’m not going to screw around with it and ruin myself. Obviously I don’t want to let my family down. I don’t’ want to embarrass them.”
Kehrli pointed out that the moratoriums that counties have been putting up all over the state have been taking money away from the state for funding to pave roads and help the state.
“It’s a chance to make money for the state. We are taxed three times. From us to the processor, from the processor to the store, from the store to the owner.”
“People are mudslinging over a moot point,” Bianchi said. “It’s going to be a great project for everybody if we can get the ball rolling. We’ll be able to employ people and be a solid part of the community. We want to impact the community in a positive way. It’s a controversial thing, but we want to make it a lucrative honest business.
“We plan on doing it right and making everyone look good.”