OLYMPIA — Washington’s first recreational marijuana stores are expected to open on July 8, a day after the first licenses will be announced, state officials said today. But those stores will not be carrying “edible” marijuana products because new rules are coming on labeling to discourage marketing to children.
Gov. Jay Inslee and other state officials said they are stepping up education efforts to keep marijuana out of the hands of children even as Washington prepares to allow the first stores to open early next month.
Sharon Foster, chairwoman of the Liquor Control Board, said the agency expects to issue about 20 licenses for retail marijuana stores on July 7, and those licensees could open their stores the next day.
They won’t have to open that soon, she said, but most likely will to take advantage of being among the first to get licenses.
It will continue to approve licenses for retailers drawn by lottery in subsequent days, as applicants notify the agency they have all the necessary equipment and training in place.
On Wednesday the board is expected to approve new emergency regulations to limit the type of edible products marijuana processors will be allowed to distribute to the stores, and the kinds of labels and packaging they will carry. The board will likely prohibit any labels that have cartoons or other features that appeal to children.
No marijuana processor has notified the board yet that it is producing edible products. But in Colorado, the only other state where recreational marijuana is legal, a wide variety of marijuana products include candy bars, cookies, brownies and candy that look like Gummi bears. Some overdoses have occurred when users took too much, either because the dosage wasn’t clear on the label or because they weren’t familiar with the strength of the drug.
Washington was instrumental in forcing the tobacco industry to stop advertising to children through such devices as “Joe Camel”, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said. It won’t let the fledgling marijuana industry copy that strategy with its products.
Approved labels will also have to spell out the potential health effects of the drug.
Inslee said he hopes parents will talk with their children about the dangers of marijuana before the drug goes on sale for recreational use. The state has an informational web site, LearnAboutMarijuanaWA.org that provides advice for parents in talking about the drug.
Ferguson said the state is “upholding the will of the voters” who legalized recreational marijuana use for adults in 2012 with Initiative 502. But those who are under 21 who use it are breaking the law and “you’re on your own.”
State and local law enforcement officials will also be looking for drivers impaired by too much marijuana as part of their summer patrols for driving under the influence as part of a “Drive High/Get a DUI” campaign.