Washington residents and out-of-staters could buy an ounce of tested, labeled marijuana, seven days a week, up to 20 hours a day, in state-regulated stores under draft rules for a new legal-pot system released Thursday by the Liquor Control Board.
That rule is more permissive than in Colorado, the other state creating an adult recreational-pot market. Colorado lawmakers limited out-of-staters to buying one-quarter ounce in stores in an effort to impede “smurfing,” the practice of making repeated buys and aggregating pot to sell on the black market.
But Washington would not allow the sale of marijuana concentrates, such as hash or hash oil, unless they were infused in edible or liquid products. The high-potency concentrates have become popular to vaporize, particularly with younger users.
Washington’s 46-page raft of rules covers issues from product testing to growing licenses to advertising restrictions to package labeling.
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The draft rules would allow sun-grown pot in greenhouses — with rigid walls, roofs and doors — but not open fields. And they would not initially cap the number of growing licenses issued by the state, in an effort to include smaller growers in a seed-to-store system untested on the planet. The rules would not cap processing or retail licenses either, for similar reasons.
Alison Holcomb, primary author of Initiative 502 — approved by voters last November to legalize recreational pot — said she was pleased with the rules’ balancing of public safety and health with the desire to create a workable system.
She noted that many rules seem to beg further clarification. “This is literally just a preview of where they are right now. And they’re intentionally doing this to give the public an opportunity to provide meaningful input,” said Holcomb, drug-policy director for the ACLU of Washington.
The state’s new system allows adults to possess one ounce of dried marijuana, one pound of pot-infused edibles and 72 ounces of pot-laced liquid.
Under proposed rules, the state would not track a person’s pot purchases, or know how many stores they visit in a day. But the state would require that marijuana be traceable as it is grown, processed and moved to stores.
Trying to stop smurfing makes more sense in Colorado than Washington, according to some. Colorado is more centrally located and states on three sides have strict laws against marijuana, said Christian Sederberg, a member of Colorado’s Amendment 64 Task Force. A law-enforcement group reported evidence that Colorado’s medical marijuana was diverted to 23 states.
Washington is different, with abundant weed in British Columbia to the north and Oregon to the south. “I don’t think someone will go to 15 stores and drive [the pot] somewhere,” said Randy Simmons, the state’s marijuana project director.
The requirement that greenhouses have rigid walls did not sit well with Jeremy Moberg, an Okanogan County activist pushing for sun-grown pot because of its environmental advantages.
Moberg said security should be focused on the perimeter of a sun-grown operation, not the greenhouse itself. Fully enclosed greenhouses become too hot in summer and should have fabric walls that can be peeled back for cooling, he said.
Growing pot indoors requires intense use of electricity that rivals that of data centers, according to a study published last year in the journal Energy Policy.
“I’d like to see more conversation around what security requirements are actually necessary, and whether or not we can’t have adequate security of outdoor fields,” Holcomb said. “Eastern Washington has fabulous territory for growing this crop.”
Liquor Control Board spokesman Brian Smith said the board would consider changing that rule if Moberg and others could show that greenhouses could be secured with a different approach.
Other proposed rules include:
• Uniform testing standards by independent accredited labs. Testing might measure moisture, potency and residues of pesticides and other chemicals.
• Consumers would know the contents and potency of products they buy from labels that would come with a stamp of the state’s silhouette decorated with a seven-point marijuana leaf.
• Advertising for retail stores would be restricted to one sign visible to the public, limited in size. Ads couldn’t be false or misleading, promote overconsumption or depict toys or characters especially appealing to minors.
• Backgrounds will be checked for license applicants and financiers. Certain criminal convictions, such as a non-marijuana felony in the last 10 years, would exclude applicants.
• Strict security and surveillance, as well as tracking systems for products, would be required.
The board also laid out a schedule of fines for violating rules, which could lead to a canceled license.
Pot entrepreneurs gathered at a West Seattle meeting of the Coalition for Cannabis Standards & Ethics to pore over the rules.
“Some of this added more questions, but that’s good, that’s what process is for,” said John Davis, the coalition’s director and a medical-marijuana dispensary owner.
Davis was not bothered by the ban on selling stand-alone concentrates, which he called “trendy with kids” and likened to beer bongs.
“I can understand them having that restriction because concentrates can be potent,” he said, adding that 95 percent of his dispensary sales involve dried pot and an older consumer demographic.
The board proposed prohibiting concentrate sales, Smith said, because they didn’t think it was allowed under I-502, which said usable marijuana amounted to flowers and infused products. The board is inclined to allow the sale of stand-alone hash, hash oils and concentrates, Smith said, “but it’s not going to break the law to do it.”
Holcomb said that may be an area ripe for further discussion and may need to be resolved by changing the law next year. Under state law, stores have to be 1,000 feet from the perimeter of schools, libraries, parks and other places frequented by youth. The draft rules do not specify the number of stores nor how they would be geographically dispersed. The rules only say the board will determine the number of stores in each county.
If there are more applicants than the permitted licensed locations, the state would conduct a lottery to determine who gets licensed.
The initial draft rules are not to be confused with the official draft rules, to be filed in mid-June.
The board issued draft rules now because it wants to vet the groundbreaking regulations before releasing formal draft rules, which can be more difficult to revise, Smith said.
Gov. Jay Inslee praised the board’s work and said it couldn’t do much more to allay concerns of the federal government, which considers all marijuana an illegal, dangerous drug.
“I don’t think you could design a system with much more integrity as far as tracking the product from the producer to the consumer,” Inslee said. “I think this plan has a robust system of control and checks in a variety of ways.”
Bob Young: 206-464-2174 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Seattle Times staff reporter Andrew Garber contributed to this story.