The state Liquor Control Board has promoted deputy director Rick Garza to director, putting him at the helm of an effort to create a system of licensed, taxed and regulated marijuana.
Garza starts June 1. A liquor board employee since 1997, he has a wide-ranging portfolio as deputy that involves dealing with the Legislature, Indian tribes and the news media. Board chairwoman Sharon Foster said he is regarded as “an expert on many issues” and Gov. Jay Inslee called him “a creative leader and a team player” in the liquor board news release. Inslee also tweeted: “He’s leading one of highest-profile projects in nation. Will do great.”
The liquor board said the vote was unanimous, although it wasn’t immediately clear when the three-member board voted. UPDATE 3 p.m.: Spokesman Brian Smith said two members of the board, Foster and Ruthann Kurose, voted today at what the agency calls a “board caucus.” He said the third member, Chris Marr, was out of town today but ”indicated his support” for appointing Garza. The board discussed the appointment and interviewed Garza at a previous closed meeting, Smith said.
Pat Kohler, the director since 2002, is leaving after Inslee chose her as director of the Department of Licensing. “Things will go on smoothly without me, ” she said at a recent board meeting. She said she had been interested in “new opportunities” for a while, and wasn’t reacting to the dramatic overhaul of the liquor board’s responsibilities caused by voters’ privatization of liquor and legalization of marijuana.
The board’s process of writing rules for Washington’s new recreational marijuana market is proceeding, with draft proposals due out as early as Thursday.