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The RFP and IT Logistics For Washington's "Pot Czar" 117

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-the-best-resume-builder dept.
Esther Schindler writes "Last fall, the state of Washington passed a marijuana legalization referendum, and needed to acquire an outside consultant to run the program. 'As it normally does, the state put out a request for proposal for a consultant to run the new legal marijuana program,' writes Ron Miller. 'As word leaked out that there was an RFP open for what essentially was a "pot czar," the floodgates opened. It would be the most popular RFP in the state's history. The Liquor Control Board needed a way to process these requests quickly and cheaply.' In a typical RFP scenario, they would get maybe half a dozen responses. This one got close to 100. Miller writes about the cloud workflow required to solve the task: 'He chose these particular tools because they all had open APIs, which allowed him to mash them together easily into the solution. They were easy to use, so reviewers could learn the system with little or no training, and they were mobile, so users could access the system from any device. In particular he wanted reviewers to be able to use the system on a tablet.' I suppose this could have been written about more mundane RFPs, but I bet you'll find this more interesting than most."
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The RFP and IT Logistics For Washington's "Pot Czar"

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @08:27PM (#43343787)

    I imagine this was so popular because of the chance to run a pot legalization program as a consultant. This would be a multi-year job, but Washington State will likely not be the last state to implement this. The consultancy who wins this bid can then bid to help other states in the future, with the only credible claim of reliable experience with this issue. Being the winner of this project would be akin to striking oil.

    • by swb (14022) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:34PM (#43344141)

      I can't help but think that the pot business now is something like the Internet was circa about 1991. There was a sense it was going to be a big deal and there was going to be a lot of money made, but nobody quite knew how to do it right away.

      And like the Internet, I'll be looking back 20 years from now amazed at how much money has been made off it and how it's universally accepted, just like the Internet.

      • "There was a sense it was going to be a big deal and there was going to be a lot of money made, but nobody quite knew how to do it right away."

        I think it's pretty obvious that a lot of people still don't know how to do it.

        • by pspahn (1175617) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:48PM (#43344203)

          Indeed. A friend of mine interviewed with a local dispensary (Colorado) a couple of weeks ago, she would be doing the books.

          Granted, this is a medial dispensary, and not the type of "pot shop" that would come as the result of legalization, but I imagine the two won't be far off...

          So, as I was saying, she interviewed and, since she's smart, she was asking specific questions about how they operate. Apparently, part of her job would involved making cash deposits to the bank via an ATM at the mall. Yes. That's how they are doing it right now... cash deposits to an ATM at the mall.

          The ATM in this case belongs to Bank of America, and they are chosen for the account precisely because they do not have a presence in Colorado (other than ATMs). I'm not really sure the rest of the details, but it is clear that there are plenty of methods, especially in regards to how dispensaries run their finances, that need to be refined.

          • "Indeed. A friend of mine interviewed with a local dispensary (Colorado) a couple of weeks ago, she would be doing the books."

            Haha. I meant the internet, but I didn't make that very clear. But this, too, for sure. I won't argue with you there.

          • by swb (14022) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @10:34PM (#43344417)

            There was a story about this exact kind of thing on NPR's Planet Money:

            http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2012/12/04/166514067/episode-420-the-legal-marijuana-business [npr.org]

            They talk to legitimate business people trying to run a dispensary and handling money is a huge problem for them. It's almost nearly impossible to get a commercial bank account and really complicated to try to run it on a cash basis. The banks are paranoid because its illegal at a Federal level and there's all kinds of ways for the Feds make pain -- money laundering laws, revoking Federal bank charters, seizing assets, and so forth. Suppliers, landlords, employees, the government, customers -- everybody wants to get paid and cash is really clumsy and sometimes not an option.

            And of course, they want to be consumer friendly and take plastic, but good luck without banking. I may be remembering this wrong, but they use the gimmick of the low-rent cash machine which will also do purchases-as-cash-advance-for-a-fee so credit card users can "buy" without a cash advance from the credit card company's perspective.

            At the end of the day, a pot dispensary should be no different than any other specialty retailer -- doing payroll mostly electronically with printed checks for those who want them, a line of credit at the bank, and various accounts to park cash in or fund check writing, and taking all the usual plastic money from customers.

            • by cffrost (885375)

              The banks are paranoid because its illegal at a Federal level and there's all kinds of ways for the Feds make pain -- money laundering laws, revoking Federal bank charters, seizing assets, and so forth.

              HSBC's not paranoid.

            • Then they should use Credit Unions. Those are local businesses, not banks, and most Federal bank rules do not apply.
              • Credit unions in the United States, at least those which back deposits with a federal faith and credit guarantee, fall under the purview of the NCUA [wikipedia.org]. Management of the board is a matter of federal appointment, and be assured that federal law can and will be applied at the whim of the Senate and executive administration. All this said, I "bank" with NFCU, and generally find my history with them to be much more pleasant than prior experience with banks.

                • I did not claim they weren't under Federal control. But my point was that it is a different level of control. They aren't BANKS.
                  • You're missing the point. For purposes of the scenario being described here, by proximity of appointments and reporting, federal credit unions are under closer executive branch control than banks are. I assure you, bank-related problems experienced by folks engaging in business pursuits deemed unlawful by the federal government are mirrored or possibly lessened in comparison to those experienced by credit union customers engaging in similar behavior. Don't believe me? Send a letter to the board of your cred

                    • No, I'm not missing the point.

                      The board of the local credit union is not the Federal government.
                    • For now, you're apparently unable to admit you're simply wrong on this, and have declined to provide a substantive response to my last post. I assume you're writing that letter to the board; please let me know when you receive their reply.

                    • "For now, you're apparently unable to admit you're simply wrong on this, and have declined to provide a substantive response to my last post. I assume you're writing that letter to the board; please let me know when you receive their reply."

                      Sorry, but a "substantive response" requires more than just your say-so. Of course, I haven't presented any evidence on my side of the argument either.

                      So if you really want to call this anything more than a pissing contest, be my guest. But all that would get you is a bigger puddle.

                    • No reasonable person would consider your last response substantive. Sincere we appear to be at an impasse, I'll go ahead and write the letter to a handful of credit unions on our behalf. Do you have a preference for recipients?

                    • Please apply s/Sincere/Since/ to my last response, although I do mean it sincerely.

      • by Hatta (162192)

        nobody quite knew how to do it right away.

        What's to know how to do? We know how to grow corn and sell it. Just do the same with Cannabis. There's no reason it has to be more complicated than that.

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        I can't help but think that the pot business now is something like the Internet was circa about 1991. There was a sense it was going to be a big deal and there was going to be a lot of money made, but nobody quite knew how to do it right away.

        And like the Internet, I'll be looking back 20 years from now amazed at how much money has been made off it and how it's universally accepted, just like the Internet.

        The way to make lots of money off drugs is for them to stay illegal and to be a drug producer/distributor.

        Once pot is legal, it's just another crop, and by all accounts it's quite easy to grow so I don't see anyone growing rich from it.

  • by Daetrin (576516) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @08:30PM (#43343807)
    They actually used "request for proposal" in the blurb before they started throwing "RFP" all over the place, but because of the lack of capitalization it still took me a minute or two to figure out =P
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @08:37PM (#43343859)

    Receiving less than a hundred proposals was a problem? Reading simple documents on a tablet and submitting responses was a problem? I fail to see how this required anything more than email and a simple spreadsheet, database, or website.

    • by cosm (1072588)
      Mod parent +1 End of Conversation No Need For More Comments.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by The Rizz (1319)

      Reading simple documents on a tablet and submitting responses was a problem?

      When you're high? Yes.

    • by Rich0 (548339)

      Yeah, this is nuts.

      I could see needing software to sort out 100 RFP responses for a fighter jet (where each response is 100,000 pages including gigabytes of engineering data/diagrams).

      This is basically like getting 100 CVs for a job posting. You don't even need a secretary to handle that unless you post something like this every week.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Search for Pot Czar Requires Cloud Workflow

  • $7800 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hawguy (1600213) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @08:49PM (#43343917)

    Did they really need to create a $7800 (not including license fees) RFP review system when there were only 100 applicants? And now the company that was paid to create it is selling it to other agencies.

    • Re:$7800 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:41PM (#43344165)

      "Did they really need to create a $7800 (not including license fees) RFP review system when there were only 100 applicants? And now the company that was paid to create it is selling it to other agencies."

      My thought too. Looks like Washington is not immune from the typical State bureaucracy syndrome. My guess would be that at least 80% of the responses would weed themselves out in the first couple of paragraphs, which might take maybe a day to go through.

      The rest might need more thorough vetting, but hell, that's only 20.

      • by cffrost (885375)

        [...] 80% of the responses would weed themselves out [...]

        Heh... Nicely done. :o)

      • by olsonish (2526782)
        I'm thinking $7800 may have been a lot cheaper than what the pension and hefty administrative salary would have cost for the new extra government employee that would have been hired instead. Even if it were a low wage admin position it would have costs well over double and state bureaucracy syndrome would have been on display many times over by comparison. Just's a different point of view, I could be totally off from reality and not realize it, but I think what they got for $7800 and in the time frame tha
        • I'd say it probably is too. Even if they didn't need to hire someone else, the amount of time saved by having an efficient system developed instead of going through them by hand can be staggering.
    • Re:$7800 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by turp182 (1020263) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @10:11PM (#43344283) Journal

      Can it be used for all future RFP requests? Do the users like it better (more convenient, easier)?

      For $7,800, that would be incredible ($10,000 limit I understand, not much for such a project in my opinion). Think about what corporations spend on small IT projects (internally or externally developed).

      I'm assuming the developer was familiar with all of the tools and already had ample experience piecing them together. The time frame makes it so.

  • Where can I score?

    4 & 7

    • by Anonymous Coward

      See RFC (Request for Cannabis) 420 and RFC 1149 [wikipedia.org].

  • by Anonymous Coward

    so the feds can come in and obtain the data without a warrant, then arrest anyone that might use or have used pot.. before or after the state law changed... because it's still a violation of *federal* law regardless.

  • potczar (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    There's a tag now, forever in slashdot. For potczar.

  • Cloud usage is irrelevant here. The thing could have been done quickly in-house with any CMS, provided knowledgeable people are available.

    What would have been interesting is the HR side of the story: how did they choose among 100 applicant for an unusual position?

  • by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:55PM (#43344229) Homepage Journal

    You're telling me these people couldn't be bothered to personally read all 100 or so applications?

    • Re:Lazy (Score:4, Insightful)

      by foniksonik (573572) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @10:45PM (#43344473) Homepage Journal

      An RFP for a complicated consulting job can be 50 pages long or more with additional addendums and appendixes.

      I wrote an RFP for a project with a medical device company and it was 30+ pages.

      These are dense pages also. We're basically talking about a draft project plan or business plan. Milestones, deliverables, ROI calculations, tables of data, lists of requirements, software, hardware, etc

      100 applications would be at minimum 1000 pages of details.

      • by Khyber (864651)

        Good, and they need HUMANS to read, discuss, and talk points/advantages/disadvantages.

        I wrote the RFP for my former UK investors for a fairly large research facility for massive-scale crop production. 75 pages, NOT including the added pages for certification and regulation in other countries.

        Letting a computer do it seems pretty damned lazy, considering the utter scale of such a project. Humans should be HEAVILY involved in every step of the way.

      • by Kjella (173770)

        An RFP for a complicated consulting job can be 50 pages long or more with additional addendums and appendixes.

        That's not even a complicated one, more like a medium size one. Big consulting jobs typically have a prequalifier where you only accept a handful of detailed submissions because they can run into hundreds or thousands of pages. It's good business for both parties because the cost of writing and losing offers are baked into the consulting price, being one in hundred means ninety-nine of them will walk away with a loss while if you're one in three everybody knows you have a good shot at winning. Likewise, tim

  • by Nyder (754090) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @10:11PM (#43344281) Journal

    That would be very funny. You'd have to past a drug test to be the Pot Czar. =)

    • That would be very funny. You'd have to past a drug test to be the Pot Czar. =)

      I live a state over (Idaho) so this whole process has been on the local news a lot. Applicants cannot have any history at all of illegal drug use, so I wouldn't be surprised if (initial at least) drug screening is required.

    • If your urine tested negative for THC would you consider that a pass or a failure in this case?
    • by ixidor (996844)
      yes but if pot is now legal in that state, can they toke up and pass the drug test?
  • The article mentions the electronic process being easier for reviewers to go over the application, but the numerous applications might have been related to not having to file things on paper in multiple forms and simplifying the process. I'd wager that my eye insurance co avoids moving claims online to reduce their payout rate.
  • This is not soliciting resumes people. It's a business plan RFP to run the program.

    It will have a budget, a hiring plan, a schedule with milestones and target goals. There will be a pro forma p&l to show how the budget will work and what the taxpayers will have to pick up the tab for. It will also have to work within the legal guidelines, which complicates things a lot.

  • Well, at least us Washington residents expected there would be many more than 100 applicants, especially considering that a criminal background didn't immediately bar you from consideration. The state probably expected more as well and hired a consultant accordingly. There's some tidbits in the article that stand out to me:

    He created an intelligent form in Google Docs for the review form.

    He ensured the security of the system by giving the users each a unique ID (e.g., Reviewer1, Reviewer2, etc.) and password, which protected the system integrity and maintained the anonymity of each reviewer

    Uhh... doesn't using Google Docs negate the anonymity? Personally, I wouldn't consider it 'secure' either (if Google implodes, can /you/ restore your data?).

    The system design cost just $7800 to put together. License fees for Box and DocuSign were not included in the total cost because the Liquor Control Board bought those separately.

    Translated: The system design

  • by JDG1980 (2438906) on Wednesday April 03, 2013 @12:26AM (#43344893)

    This wasn't mentioned in the article or the summary, but Washington State has apparently already completed the selection process. The contract was awarded to BOTEC Analysis [bizjournals.com], a consulting firm run by drug policy analyst and blogger Mark Kleiman. You can watch a CNN interview with Kleiman here [cnn.com]. Kleiman's blog posts on drug policy are archived here [samefacts.com].

  • At least the summary is fully buzzword compliant.
  • The word czar is from Russian and means monarch. (Originated from the name Ceasar)
    Pot Czar = King of Pot ? Sounds funny

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