The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) today adopted emergency rules and issued new draft rules to begin the public process of aligning the medical marijuana market with the existing recreational market. The Board’s actions are the result of 2015 legislation, the Cannabis Patient Protection Act, 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.
The WSLCB will begin accepting retail license applications on Oct. 12, 2015. 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.
In November, the public may comment in person on the draft rules at six evening public hearings scheduled throughout the state. Currently scheduled dates and locations include:
- Nov. 3 Spokane
- Nov. 4 Ellensburg
- Nov. 9 Vancouver
- Nov. 12 Tacoma
- Nov. 16 Seattle
- Nov. 19 Everett
Production Restrictions Eased
In a separate action, the WSLCB will today 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 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. A new cap will be applied at a later date.