The race for state representative in Washington’s seventh district could be cannabis farmer versus cattleman after the state’s primary election on Aug. 7.
Crystal Oliver, co-founder and president of Washington’s Finest Cannabis, a sun-grown cannabis farm in eastern Washington, has listed the Democratic party as her preference on the ballot in District 7. She is running in a “top-two” primary race that also includes Republican incumbent Joel Kretz, a rancher and cattleman, who has represented the Seventh District since 2004. (Oliver is a member of the Cannabis Business Times editorial advisory board.)
The district struggles with economic development, Oliver told Cannabis Business Times, and she looks forward to generating more jobs and revenue as a state representative. “This district has historically relied on resource-based industries, so I’m certainly looking forward to working on some projects to help facilitate more tourism and supporting the local communities and taking advantage of the beautiful natural resources that they have to generate more jobs and revenue,” she said.
Oliver also wants to bring affordable health care to the district. “A lot of the people in this district have to drive very far in order to get medical care. They generally have to come into Spokane,” she said. “There are a couple of other small, rural hospitals in the district. [Another priority is] making sure that those hospitals are supported and able to stay open.”
Oliver’s parents and many of her friends and colleagues are small business owners, so she hopes to help small businesses if elected. As a cannabis farmer, she brings the unique perspective of the expanding cannabis industry to the small business discussion.
“Generally, when you’re a small business owner and you decide that you’re going to start your business, there’s already this regulatory framework that you plug in to, and the regulations have often been around for decades,” she said. “But with our business, those regulations didn’t exist yet, so they had to be built from the ground up.”
In the past five years, as Oliver and her husband, Kevin, launched their cannabis business, she has been involved in that regulatory and legislative process. “I served on several different regulatory work groups and really came to have an appreciation for how the rules and laws get created and modified and changed, and found that I really had an interest in the way those systems are built and designed,” she said.
Oliver has sat on the Technical Advisory Group with the State Building Code Council to develop fire codes for marijuana extraction, as well as a marijuana advisory committee for the Spokane Clean Air Agency. She also currently sits on the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board’s Cannabis Advisory Council and serves on the Spokane County Voluntary Stewardship Working Group to implement the state’s Growth Management Act, which requires state and local governments to manage the state’s growth by identifying and protecting critical areas and natural resource lands.
As Oliver interacted with lawmakers and legislators over the years, some have commented that she should consider a career in policy, she said. This year, as she was considering entering the race for state representative, the chair of the Seventh Legislative District Democrats contacted her and also encouraged her to run.
Oliver participated in the Fourth of July Parade in Usk, Wash.
Oliver has been endorsed by the Spokane County Democrats and National Women’s Political Caucus of Washington, and has been attending meetings to introduce herself. “It’s been really interesting because I do disclose during the meetings that I am a marijuana farmer, so there are often a lot of questions about that,” she said. “So, just that part of it alone has been challenging what some people think a marijuana farmer looks like. … I think that’s going to be another added benefit of the campaign.”
Some members of the Democratic party have been hesitant to embrace Oliver as a candidate because they are uncertain of how voters will respond to her as a cannabis farmer, she said. “There are some people who are little bit standoffish at this point, and I’m hopeful that after the primary and we have a look at the numbers that that’ll help improve that situation.”
Photos courtesy of Crystal Oliver