Panel OKs Rules for Wash. State’s MJ Industry

Oct 18, 2013

Wash­ing­ton became the sec­ond U.S. state to adopt rules for the recre­ational sale of mar­i­juana Wednes­day, set­ting what advo­cates expect to become a tem­plate for the legal­iza­tion of the drug around the world. “We feel very proud of what we’re doing,” said Sharon Fos­ter, chair­woman of the Wash­ing­ton Liquor Con­trol Board, as she and her two col­leagues approved the rules. “We are mak­ing his­tory.” Wash­ing­ton and Col­orado last year legal­ized the pos­ses­sion of up to an ounce of pot by adults over 21, with vot­ers decid­ing to set up sys­tems of state-licensed grow­ers, proces­sors and sell­ers. The mea­sures put state offi­cials in the dif­fi­cult posi­tion of craft­ing rules for a fledg­ling indus­try barred by fed­eral law for more than seven decades. The liquor board devised the rules after nearly a year of research, debate and plan­ning, includ­ing pub­lic hear­ings that drew hun­dreds of peo­ple around the state. The rules cover every­thing from the secu­rity at and size of licensed mar­i­juana gar­dens, to how many pot stores can open in cities across the state. Sales are expected to begin by the mid­dle of next year, with sup­port­ers in Wash­ing­ton hop­ing taxed pot might bring the state tens or hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars, with much of the rev­enue directed to pub­lic health and drug-abuse pre­ven­tion. “What the Liquor Con­trol Board has done is build a tem­plate for the respon­si­ble reg­u­la­tion of mar­i­juana,” said Ali­son Hol­comb, the Seat­tle lawyer who drafted Washington’s mar­i­juana ini­tia­tive. “This is a tem­plate that is going to be reviewed by other states, and already is being reviewed by other coun­tries,” includ­ing Mex­ico, Uruguay and Poland. The board’s mem­bers said they had tried to strike a bal­ance between mak­ing mar­i­juana acces­si­ble enough that legal pot would under­mine the black mar­ket, but not so acces­si­ble that it would threaten pub­lic health or safety. The board hopes the sale of legal pot will cap­ture about one-quarter of the total pot mar­ket in the state, for starters. Under the rules, the board will issue licenses for up to 334 mar­i­juana stores across the state, with 21 of them in Seat­tle – a fig­ure some have ques­tioned as too low, con­sid­er­ing the city esti­mates about 200 med­ical mar­i­juana dis­pen­saries are oper­at­ing there. The City Coun­cil has passed zon­ing reg­u­la­tions for pot busi­nesses that would require med­ical mar­i­juana dis­pen­saries to obtain a state license or stop doing busi­ness by 2015. The rules limit the num­ber of licenses that any­one can hold to three – an attempt by the board to stamp out any dreams of mar­i­juana monop­o­lies before they start. They also pro­hibit out-of-state invest­ment in pot busi­nesses and require quality-control test­ing of mar­i­juana by third-party labs. Mar­i­juana must be tracked from seed to sale, and pack­ages must carry warn­ings about the poten­tial dan­gers of pot use. Hilary Bricken, a Seat­tle lawyer who is advis­ing busi­nesses that hope to obtain mar­i­juana licenses, said her clients largely are con­tent with the reg­u­la­tions, though some are dis­ap­pointed by the three-license max and the ban on out-of-state money. “It’s a huge under­tak­ing, and the board has been extremely fair,” she said. Washington’s rules take effect in one month, and the state plans to begin accept­ing license appli­ca­tions Nov. 18. Col­orado approved its mar­i­juana indus­try rules last month. They require busi­nesses to use a state-run online inven­tory track­ing pro­gram to doc­u­ment the plant’s jour­ney from seed to sale. Mar­i­juana also must be placed in opaque, child-resistant con­tain­ers before being taken out of a store, and recre­ational pot stores won’t be allowed to adver­tise to peo­ple under 21. The fed­eral gov­ern­ment announced ear­lier this year that it would not sue Wash­ing­ton, Col­orado or other states over plans to tax and reg­u­late mar­i­juana sales for adults over 21, pro­vided they address eight fed­eral law enforce­ment pri­or­i­ties, includ­ing keep­ing mar­i­juana off the black mar­ket and keep­ing it away from kids Washington’s legal mar­i­juana law includes zon­ing require­ments keep­ing the busi­nesses away from schools, parks and play­grounds. Source: Asso­ci­ated Press (Wire) Author: Gene John­son, Asso­ci­ated Press Pub­lished: Octo­ber 16, 2013 Copy­right: 2013 The Asso­ci­ated Press

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Panel OKs Rules for Wash. State’s MJ Industry

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