By Phillip Smith
Washington became the second state to adopt rules and regulations for legal marijuana commerce Wednesday, as the state Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) finalized its proposed rulemaking process. Colorado, which also legalized marijuana in the November 2012 elections, completed its rulemaking process several weeks ago.
"We feel very proud of what we're doing," said WSLCB chairwoman Sharon Foster. "We are making history. Over these last several months we have put together a comprehensive system of rules which will serve as the foundation for this new industry. This has been a very open process of rulemaking with public involvement each step of the way. We appreciate all the support and involvement we've had from Gov. Inslee, local officials, law enforcement, industry members and Washington citizens along the way."
The WSLCB was tasked with balancing the need to make marijuana easily accessible enough to choke off the black market, while not making it so easy to get that it will leak out of state, get into the hands of minors, or otherwise pose a public health threat.
The rules cover all aspects of marijuana commerce and regulate it from seed to retail sale. They will allow up to 334 marijuana retail stores, with sales expected to begin around the middle of next year. Supporters hope marijuana sales will generate tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues, with much earmarked for public health and drug abuse prevention.
In a bid to prevent monopolization of the industry, the WSLCB is limiting the number of licenses anyone can hold to three. It also bans out of state investment in marijuana businesses.
Things will really get down to business next month, when the board opens a 30-day licensing window for producers, processors, and retailers. That begins on November 18.