Washington: State To Open Retail Marijuana License Applications With No Initial Cap

WashingtonStateMarijuana

WSLCB Says The Goal Is To 'Align' Recreational and Medical Marijuana

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) on Wednesday announced that beginning October 12, it will accept new retail applications "using the priority criteria set forth in the law." According to the Board, there will not be an initial cap on the number of licenses issued.

"Potential applicants are strongly encouraged to ensure that they have all of the required documentation before applying," the WSLCB announced. "Failure to provide required documentation in a timely manner will result in the application being withdrawn, however you will be able to apply again."

The WSLCB adopted emergency rules and issued new draft rules to begin the public process of "aligning" the medical marijuana market with the existing recreational market (many activists would more cynically call it "eliminating" the medical marijuana market "in favor of" the recreational market).

The Board’s actions are the result of 2015 legislation, the so-called "Cannabis Patient Protection Act" (SB 5052, sponsored by Sen. Ann Rivers), which established a priority system for licensing existing medical marijuana outlets. The emergency rules, which are effective immediately, allow the WSLCB to begin the process of licensing new retail outlets that may sell both medical and recreational marijuana.

Existing recreational stores may also apply for an endorsement to sell both.

“If phase one was implementation of the recreational marijuana marketplace then today marks the beginning of phase two -- the public process of aligning the medical marijuana system with the existing recreational system,” said Board Chair Jane Rushford.

Priority Criteria

The WSLCB will begin accepting retail license applications on Oct. 12,. Applicants will be processed for licensure prioritized "as established in law."

There will not be an initial cap on the number of retail licenses that will be approved by the WSLCB. Medical marijuana outlets, also known as dispensaries, must be licensed by July 1, 2016 or face closure by local authorities. In addition, non-retail cooperatives which consist of up to four persons who grow for personal medical use, may register with the WSLCB after July 1, 2016.

First priority will be applicants who applied for a marijuana retail license prior to July 1, 2014, operated (or were employed by) a collective garden prior to January 1, 2013, have maintained a state and local business license and have a history of paying state taxes.

Second priority will be applicants who operated (or were employed by) a collective garden prior to January 1, 2013, have maintained a state and local business license, and have a history of paying state taxes and fees.

Third priority will be applicants who do not meet the requirements for priority one or priority two.

Public Hearings

In November, the public may comment in person on the draft rules at six evening public hearings scheduled throughout the state. Currently scheduled tentative dates and locations include:

November 3, 2015 -- 6:30pm -- Spokane Convention Center, Spokane, WA
November 4, 2015 -- 6:30pm -- Central Washington University, Ellensburg, WA
November 9, 2015 -- 6:30pm -- Clark College (Gaizer Student Center), Vancouver, WA
November 12, 2015 -- 6:30pm -- Best Western Hotel/Seahawk Ballroom, Tacoma, WA
November 16, 2015 -- 6:30pm -- Seattle City Hall/Bertha Knight Landis Room, Seattle, WA
November 19, 2015 -- 6:30pm -- Everett Community College/Jackson Conference Center, Everett, WA

Public Comment

"Please forward your initial comments to the Liquor and Cannabis Board by mail, e-mail, or fax by November 19, 2015."

Mail:
Rules Coordinator
Liquor and Cannabis Board
PO Box 43080
Olympia, WA 98504-3080

Email:
rules@lcb.wa.gov

Fax:
(360) 664-9689

Production Restrictions Eased

In a separate action, the WSLCB said it will on Wedensday notify existing producers that the restriction of their license to grow at 70 percent of capacity has been lifted. Following WSLCB staff approval, licensed producers may grow to 100 percent of capacity, limited to a single license.

Previously, growers were restricted to keep production within the estimated limits of the recreational market, supposedly to prevent over-production and diversion of product out of state.

Preventing diversion is one of eight enforcement guidelines issued by United States Department of Justice in a memo to states which choose to legalize marijuana.

"The WSLCB has temporarily lifted the restriction to allow licensed producers to meet the demand expected with the opening of new retail stores," the Board announced. "A new cap will be applied at a later date."