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Khurshid Khoja, a suited corporate lawyer from San Francisco, sat beside a balding, ponytailed man in a gray sweatshirt — Ed Rosenthal, a co-founder of High Times magazine and a recognized expert on marijuana cultivation. They’re on a team bidding for the contract.

“I’ve seen the effect of regulation of marijuana all my life,” Mr. Khoja said. “I’d like to see a more rational, scientific approach to it.”

Several people asked whether winning the contract, or even subcontracting with the winning bidder, would preclude them from getting state licenses to grow, process or sell cannabis. Farley said yes: It would pose a conflict of interest to have the consultant helping develop the regulations being subject to those rules. But once the contract has expired, they could apply for state marijuana licenses, he said.

After the questions ended, the bidders mingled, exchanging business cards and talking about how they might team up. One Seattle-area marijuana grower, a college student who declined to give his name after noting that a dispensary he worked with had been raided by federal authorities in 2011, approached Mr. Rosenthal.

“It would be my dream to smoke a bowl with you after this,” he said.