Wash. state releases draft rules for legal pot

SEATTLE — Officials in Washington state took their first stab at setting rules for the state’s new marijuana industry Thursday, nearly eight months after voters here legalized pot for adults.

Among the preliminary regulations: They want to track marijuana from “seed to store,” and while they’re putting a cap on the number of retail stores in each county, they’re not planning to limit the number of licensed pot growers or processors.

No sales of marijuana extracts, such as hash, would be allowed — unless the extract is infused into another product — and all pot-related businesses would have to have security systems, 24-hour video surveillance and insurance.

Any marijuana product sold at a state-licensed stores would carry a label noting that it “may be habit forming,” accompanied by a logo of Washington state — with a marijuana-leaf silhouette smack in the middle.

Staff at the state Liquor Control Board spent long hours visiting marijuana grow houses, studying the science of getting high and earning nicknames like “the queen of weed” before issuing the rules.

“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,” said Sharon Foster, chairwoman of the state Liquor Control Board.

Foster -- who began a speech at a recent conference by saying, “My friends now call me the queen of weed” — said the board is trying to create a tightly regulated system that ensures both large and small operations a place in the emerging market.

Last fall voters made Washington and Colorado the first states to legalize the sale of taxed marijuana to adults over 21 at state-licensed stores.

Marijuana sales in Washington should begin in early 2014 — unless the Justice Department has something to say about it. Pot remains illegal federally, and the DOJ could sue to try to block the licensing schemes in Washington and Colorado from taking effect.

Under the 46 pages of rules circulated Thursday, Washington state would use a criminal history point system in determining whether someone is eligible for obtaining a license to grow, sell or process pot.

A felony in the past decade or two misdemeanors in the past three years would disqualify an applicant — but applicants could get a free pass on up to two pot-possession misdemeanors, and any single state or federal conviction for selling, growing or possessing marijuana could be waived on a case-by-case basis.

The board also said it will conduct criminal and financial background checks on “financiers” of pot businesses — anyone who invests more than $10,000.

The “seed-to-store” system for tracking marijuana is designed to help prevent any pot from being diverted to the black market. It would require growers, processors and retailers to notify the board of any marijuana shipments, and to keep records such as when plants are harvested and destroyed.

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