First Ever Cannabis Caucus Held at a Public University in Washington State is at Central Washington University in Ellensburg
By: Masha Brown
I recently had the pleasure of attending Central Washington University’s 18thAnnual Economic Outlook Conference, which assembled the first ever Cannabis Caucus to be held at a Public University in Washington State.
The room of attendees was split into three distinct categories; those in the industry: from producers to processors to growers and retail owners, with even the Director of the Liquor and Cannabis Board, Rick Garza, a CWU Alumni himself, in attendance; community members who were curious about legal cannabis in the local community, and budding young entrepreneurs, cannapreneurs and students, some coming from around the state to learn more about the direction cannabis is taking economic trends of our future. Even the mayor was in presence, welcoming the group after the mingle breakfast.
Topics and flow of the day was…
Although for some turning out this was a way to learn about a potential monetary tools and focus for the future, or to learn about a fun pastime recreationally, but, for many, cannabis has a medical attribute that isundeniable.
Mayor of Ellensburg, Bruce Tabb, welcomed the conference by sharing a personal story about the use of cannabis medicinally in his family for a battle of stage four cancer.
I remember the many patients I came into contact with working in medical dispensaries years prior to i-502 passing. Those stories always touched me the most. Hearing about someone having to take handfuls of pills with varying side effects and still not feel relief, versus finding cannabis, weather in vape, smoke or edible and topical forms to assist in the ailments they were dealing with, was shocking. These testimonials were always the evidence that swayed me the most.
Mayor Tabb was sure to remind everyone the financial impact the cannabis industry has had just on the city of Ellensburg; with sales coming in over $6 million, tax revenue at $2.3 million which translates into $50,000 back to the community. Although this may not sound as much as the taxes collected, it also doesn’t factor the massive amount of jobs cannabis has cultivated, from trimmers to processors, sales teams and budtenders. You could tell Mayor Tabb was authentic in his gratitude for the presence of cannabis in the local community.
“This has changed the conversation in this country about cannabis, how we use it and how we address it, and for that I appreciate the College of Business for moving forward and I appreciate all of you in this room for being a part of this conference and welcome you to the city.”
–Mayor of Ellensburg, Bruce Tabb
Talks were split up by panels with Q&A moments, allowing for a discussion to open up to the entire audience.
A group of roughly 20 students came from a variety of neighboring universities including nearby Evergreen State College with Respect My Region in presence, connecting with students and vowing to assist in getting them into the cannabis industry.
The conference presentations were kicked off by Steve Lerch, Washington State’s Chief Economist, who was forthcoming in stating that there is “no historical data” about cannabis consumption and production, as well as its affects on our state, the people and the economy, so it is still much a guessing game, besides the spike in sales around 420 that they admit they can predict.
Next, CWU students discussed the cannabis industry with an analysis breakdown of prices for grams, top sellers in the state, as well as data on analytics of cannabinoids and THC percentages. Although it was clear not everyone presenting might be a consumer, the amount of research put into the presentation was immense and telling about the freedom being taught in the classroom, as well as the CWU’s dedication to proper research and understanding.
Director of Washington State’s Liquor and Cannabis Control Board was also in attendance, and when asked if he often appeared at events like this, Rick Garza commented that he was picky, but being a CWU grad himself, had selected to support this local event put on by the CWU College of Business.
It is clear that the future of cannabis tomorrow is shaping our education today. Being a Public University, Central does get its funding Federally, which means it is currently unable to have any cannabis classes, programs or departments, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t trying. Dr. Toni Sipic, the chair for the Department of Economics was clear in mentioning that if there is a way to make it possible, they would find it.
Personally, it was an honor to be in the presence of such a historical moment in time. Being a CWU graduate myself, Central never had a reputation for extensive cannabis use, it is not Western, or Evergreen. But coming back to Central to see the progressive installation such as the first Cannabis Caucus to be held at a public University in Washington is a monumental time in history and I am so grateful I can share this story with you.