The rules are out.
Washington State has published a preliminary set of regulations to govern the coming legal weed industry in the state. The rules, issued May 16, outline the basic requirements for the owners of retail stores where pot will be sold starting later this year.
The Washington State Liquor Control Board, which issued the draft rules, is seeking public comment on them until June 10. At that point, they’ll be filed officially in draft form, and the process will move forward.
Washington joined Colorado in November as one of the first two states to legalize marijuana completely. Once the new law is fully in place, retailers will sell weed from state-regulated shops similar to liquor stores. Efforts to establish retail sale are also underway in Colorado. Possession and use are already legal in both states.
Under the rules contained in the Liquor Control Board draft, growers would be subject to independent testing, product sizes would be limited, and licensees would have to undergo standard criminal background checks. Among the proposed regulations:
- The window for applications would be open for 30 days for all types of licenses and extended or reopened at the discretion of the board. This would be similar to the process used when Colorado introduced medical marijuana.
- Applicants for licenses and their financial backers would be subject to criminal background checks. They would be required to submit fingerprints and complete a form attesting to their criminal histories.
- The board would use a point system, similar to that used with liquor providers, to disqualify applicants based on criminal history. The board would overlook up to two misdemeanor convictions for possession within a three-year period.
- Grows would be allowed indoors and in greenhouses.
- Special software would be used to keep track of product from grow to sale.
- A tiered system of violations would apply, similar to the approach used with liquor providers. There would be a base-level $1,000 fine for certain violations, with tiered penalties added for violations accrued over three years.
- Owners would be required to install strong surveillance systems modeled on those used by dispensaries in Colorado.
- Advertising would be banned within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, transit stations, arcades and other child-oriented sites. No advertising geared toward children would be allowed.
- Products would have to stay behind the counter, with no open containers allowed.
- Contents and potency of products would have to be labeled.
- Pot and THC products could only be sold in serving sizes of 10 milligrams THC, with a limit of 100 milligrams per product.
- Product would be subject to uniform testing by independent accredited labs.
Under the rules, the state would use a consultant to monitor marijuana consumption levels in each county. The data would be used to determine how many stores should be located in each county. A lottery would be used if the number of applicants in a county exceeds the number of licenses.
The rules will doubtless raise heated controversy, especially the THC limits and open container regulation. But their appearance is a sign Washington is moving toward full legalization on schedule.