OLYMPIA — Under pressure from the federal government, the state agency trying to develop regulations for legal marijuana stores is again changing a rule regarding how far they must be from schools and playgrounds.
Stores selling recreational marijuana to adults must be at least 1,000 feet away from those and some other facilities, as measured in a straight line between the boundaries of the two properties,
Last week, in announcing the latest round of rule changes that put limitations on businesses that would grow, process or sell marijuana, the Washington State Liquor Control Board tentatively approved a rule that would measure that 1,000 feet along “the most common path of travel”. It was the system the board used for liquor store licenses, and could have resulted in stores being closer to schools.
U.S. attorneys for Eastern and Western Washington earlier this week warned Gov. Jay Inslee that they would enforce the straight-line standard, sometimes called “as the crow flies.” A recent memo from the U.S. Justice Department that is seen as allowing Washington to try developing a legal marijuana system as approved by state voters listed failing to keep the drug away from minors as one of the things that could cause its agents to enforce federal laws, which still list it as an illegal drug for all uses.
Rick Garza, agency executive director, said the board used the emergency rule process for the change so potential applicants would know about it as they look for locations and prepare to seek licenses, which might be available in mid-November.
In adopting the previous change to the “common path” method of measuring distance last week, board members said they were opening up more potential areas for stores in some cities. Garza said Friday he didn't know how the latest change would effect the number of potential locations, but said cities shouldn't be worried because the number of stores will be strictly limited. The straight line method will be easier to measure and verify, he added.
The board will hold two hearings on the changes it tentatively adopted last week, including one at 6 p.m. Oct. 9 at the Spokane Convention Center.