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State Liquor Control Board issues draft rules for recreational marijuana market; seeks public comment

The State Liquor Board has issued draft regulations for the recreational marijuana market. Voters approved the sale of marijuana by passing I-502 last November. - COURTESY GRAPHIC
The State Liquor Board has issued draft regulations for the recreational marijuana market. Voters approved the sale of marijuana by passing I-502 last November.
— image credit: COURTESY GRAPHIC

Now's the time to let the State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) know your opinion of the proposed rules for the state's new recreational marijuana market.

The WSLCB on Thursday issued its initial draft rules for the state's emerging recreational marijuana market. Voters approved legal marijuana for recreational use with the passage of Initiative 502 (I-502) in November.

According to its media release, the board is seeking public comment on its initial draft rules before officially initiating the formal draft rule-making process in mid-June. The WSLCB will accept public comment on its initial draft through June 10.

The best way to provide your input is via email at  rules@liq.wa.gov. Other options include sending a fax to 360-664-9689 or writing a letter to:

Rules Coordinator, Liquor Control Board, P.O. Box 43080, Olympia, WA 98504-3080.

Public hearings also will be scheduled for July about the proposed regulations. The board hopes to issue the first licenses in December.

The initial draft rules, posted on the WSLCB website and issued to the more than 4,700 subscribers on its I-502 email listserv, reflect the agency’s initial thinking on what Washington’s emerging system of producing, processing, and retailing recreational marijuana may look like.

“These initial rules balance our goal of developing a tightly regulated system with reasonable access for small and large business models to participate within the system,” said Board Chair Sharon Foster. “They are based upon hundreds of hours of internal research and deliberation, consultation with multiple industry experts and input from the over 3,000 individuals who attended our forums statewide.”

The initial draft rules reflect the board’s stated goal of developing a tightly regulated and controlled recreational marijuana market. Included in the rules are elements that address out-of-state diversion of product, traceability of product from start to sale, youth access and other public and consumer safety concerns.

Below are some key elements proposed in the initial draft rules.

• License Requirements

Application Window -- The application window would open for 30 days for all license types and extended or re-opened at the Board’s discretion. This approach was similar to how Colorado opened its medical marijuana system.

• Background Checks -- License applicants and financiers would be required to submit a form attesting to their criminal history, provide fingerprints, and allow criminal background checks.

• Point System -- The WSLCB would employ a disqualifying criminal history point system similar to liquor. An exception would be allowed for two misdemeanor convictions of possession within three years.

• Public Safety

Producer Structures -- Producer operations would be allowed in both secure indoor grows or greenhouses.

Traceability -- A robust and comprehensive traceability software system will trace product from start to sale.

• Violation Guidelines -- In addition to the $1,000 fine for certain violations established by I-502, the initial draft rules also include a strict tiered system of violation penalties over a three-year period (similar to the current standard penalty guidelines for liquor).

• Security -- The rules direct strict on-site surveillance systems similar to Colorado’s current system.

• Advertising Restrictions -- I-502 restricts advertising within 1,000 feet of schools, public parks, transit centers, arcades, and other areas where children are present. The draft rules further restrict advertising as they pertain to children.

• Consumer Safety

Behind the Counter Storage -- No open containers allowed.

Package and Label Requirements -- Consumers will know contents and potency of products they purchase.

Defined Serving Size -- Serving sizes equal 10 mg of THC. Products are limited to 100 mg.

Lab Tested -- Uniform testing standards by independent accredited labs.

The WSLCB is working with its consultant, BOTEC Analysis Corporation, to identify marijuana consumption levels in each county. The board will use that data at a later date to identify the number of retail stores in each county. Should the number of applicants exceed the number of retail outlets identified for each county, the board will hold a lottery to choose entities eligible to apply.

Following the June 10 deadline for comment, the WSLCB will incorporate appropriate changes to the rules before officially filing draft rules later in June.

Additional information about I-502, including: a timeline for implementation, answers to frequently asked questions, and a fact sheet are available on the WSLCB website at www.liq.wa.gov.

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