Regulations scheduled to take effect in November would eventually allow 31 stores in Pierce County to sell marijuana under Washington’s legalized market for regulated, recreational use of the drug.
The state Liquor Control Board, which was given regulatory authority over retail sales of marijuana that voters statewide approved in the 2012 election, last Wednesday authorized the filing of rules to help govern a system for producing, processing and selling marijuana. The rules include revisions of regulations the board submitted in July but later decided to change and refile following public comments.
A key part of the rules is the number and allocation per-county of the retail stores. Initiative 502, the voter-approved ballot measure that legalized a restricted marijuana market, requires store allocations to be based on population data from the state’s Office of Financial Management (OFM). There will be a cap on the number of stores that can be located in each county. For Pierce County, the limit is 31. Of those, 17 would be allowed in unincorporated areas or towns and cities that are still to be decided. Maximums that have been set so far for individual municipalities include eight in Tacoma, two in Puyallup, two in Lakewood, and one apiece in Bonney Lake and University Place.
The Liquor Control Board has decided 334 stores can be allowed statewide. That number was chosen by using OFM information and data on adult marijuana consumption from the state’s marijuana consultant, BOTEC Analysis Corp. At the county level, cities with the largest populations are allocated a proportionate number of stores, with the remaining outlets available for other areas of a county.
Pierce County would be allowed to have the second largest number of stores statewide. King County, with 61, would have the most.
“These rules fulfill the public expectation of creating a tightly-regulated and controlled system while providing reasonable access to participation in the market,” said board chairwoman Sharon Foster. She added that the rules meet federal government enforcement priorities that were announced earlier by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The board has directed that the rules will become effective Nov. 16. From Nov. 18 to Dec. 18, the board would accept applications for licenses to produce and sell marijuana.
The board has placed limits on the scale of marijuana production. Statewide, the total number of licensees would be allowed to produce 40 metric tons of marijuana in a combined 2 million square feet of space. Licenses would be available for three levels, or tiers, of marijuana grow operations – those using less than 2,000 square feet, between 2,000 and 10,000 square feet, and 10,000 to 30,000 square feet.
In addition, there are limits on the number of licenses that any producer/retailer could hold. No more than three licenses could be granted to any single business, and no operation with multiple stores could have more than 33 percent of the licenses allowed in any single county or city.
Throughout the rule-setting process, the board has emphasized public safety and consumer protection. Priorities of the board include:
· All grows must meet strictly controlled, on-site security requirements, strict surveillance and transportation requirements.
· Computer software will track inventory from its production to sale.
· License applicants will undergo background checks for any criminal records.
· Potential loss of license for violations of safety guidelines.
· Restricting certain advertising that could be focused on children.
· Sales of only lab-tested, approved products, with dosage and warnings included on packaging and labels.
· Child-resistant packaging.