OLYMPIA – Washington will allow legal marijuana to be grown outside if it has adequate security, under new rules receiving preliminary approval Wednesday by a state board.
The state might allow an unlimited number of marijuana growers and processors, but a limited number of stores where adults can buy the drug for recreational use. The plants and the products made from them will be tracked “from seed to sale” in secure facilities. Growers who break regulations on sales, packaging, transportation or security could lose a fourth of their crop on the second violation in three years, half their crop on the third and lose their license on the fourth.
Advertising of the stores and their products will be strictly limited and not targeted at minors. Legal marijuana being sold in licensed stores will have to come in child-proof packaging and be clearly marked with the level of its intoxicating substance.
But it won’t carry a logo of a marijuana leaf in a green Washington map.
The State Liquor Control Board canned the proposed logo Wednesday and will work on a replacement. Board Chairman Sharon Foster said there are many other logos that use the state map or outline and “we need to have something different.”
Gov. Jay Inslee said Wednesday afternoon he agreed with that call. The image of Washington state is “the Western hemlock, glaciers and mountains rather than a particular leaf.”
The board gave preliminary approval Wednesday morning to some 80 pages of rules for people who would grow, process or sell marijuana legally under a law passed last year by voters. It plans to hold four hearings around the state, including one in Spokane in early August to gather public comments. It could make further adjustments based on those comments before the rules take effect Sept. 16 and the board begins accepting applications for licenses for each of the three activities.
It will be one of the first heavily regulated recreational marijuana systems in the nation and, by most standards, in the world. Board member Chris Marr said he believed it would be successful, but he wasn’t sure yet how well it would compete with illegal sales and the state’s separate but largely unregulated medical marijuana operations.
“The real question is what percentage of the marketplace will you capture with a highly regulated system,” Marr said.
There are still significant questions about whether and how the system will work. The federal government has not yet indicated how it will deal with activities that are still illegal under federal law even though they are legal in Washington. And businesses involved in marijuana aren’t sure yet how they will be able to open bank accounts to collect money and pay taxes to the state.
Inslee said the state has not received information from federal authorities since early in the year, but said the state was moving ahead with a well-regulated system to meet the voters’ mandate.
Although the board will begin awarding licenses in December, Foster said it’s likely that sales of legally produced marijuana in state-licensed stores won’t start until late winter or early spring.