By Polly Keary, Editor
In 2014, it’s going to be legal to buy marijuana in Washington at state-authorized outlets, and the Washington Liquor Control Board has announced that Monroe is one of 334 locations eligible for a store. Growing at home and selling marijuana outside the state system will remain illegal.
The system will work much like state liquor stores once did before liquor sales were privatized by citizen’s initiative.
People can apply for a license to operate a state marijuana store, produce marijuana or process marijuana beginning Nov. 18 and for 30 days after that. There is a $250 application fee.
To qualify, one and one’s financiers must all pass a criminal background check and have lived in Washington for at least three months. No one can have more than three licenses.
The liquor board estimates that the new industry could bring as much as $2 billion in revenue to the state during the first five years.
Stores and advertising can’t be within 1,000 feet by the most direct route from schools, playgrounds, recreation centers, daycares, parks, public transit centers, libraries or arcades.
Product can’t be placed in windows, and advertising will be limited to a single sign bearing the name of the business.
Minors won’t be allowed in stores. Open containers and handling of product won’t be allowed in stores. All products will be kept behind a counter, but screen-topped “sniff jars” are allowed.
Stores can’t have more than a four-month supply on the premises.
People who live out of state will be able to buy marijuana in Washington, but they can’t leave the state with it.
Selling to people under 21 will be illegal, and three offenses will lead to increasing fines and loss of license.
The state anticipates that producers will get about $3 per gram for usable marijuana, that processors (people who turn it into cigarettes or other products) will get about $6 per gram, and that retailers will get about $12 per gram on average.
Consumers can expect to pay at least $15 per gram, though, because the state is going to tax it at 25 percent, and towns can also add a sales tax if they choose.
Production and processing
Commercial marijuana can be grown only in secure greenhouses or outdoor areas.
The liquor board plans a “robust and comprehensive” system to trace the plant from growth to sale.
Products will have to be in childproof packaging. The labels will say how many servings are in a package and how much THC (the active chemical) is in it, as well as usage warnings. A serving will be defined as 10 mg of THC.
All pot will be lab-tested for quality assurance.
The entire state can’t have more than 2 million total square feet of space for marijuana production.
Advertising can’t appear to appeal to kids. All advertising has to contain the phrases: “This product has intoxicating effects and may be habit-forming,” and “Marijuana can impair concentration, coordination, and judgment. Do not operate a vehicle or machinery under the influence of this drug.”
Processors and producers can’t own retail outlets.
How towns are responding
Monroe has a mixed stance on marijuana; medical collectives are banned outright in the city, but the city set up temporary rules allowing the growth and processing of marijuana, as well as the state-licensed store, in the city. Processors can only go into areas zoned General Industrial. The only area with that zoning is the area above the proposed Walmart on North Kelsey.
Processors can go into areas zoned Light Industrial or General Industrial. That includes the Fryelands industrial park, a couple of small parts of the downtown near Al Borlin Park, and a piece of land near Cascade View Drive.
A marijuana state-licensed store could only go into an area zoned General Commercial or Service Commercial.
Most of town north of the tracks, with the exception of the downtown is General Commercial, as is the westernmost part of West Main around the St. Vincent de Paul. There is a small piece of land near the high school that is Service Commercial, but likely is too close to the school, and another bracketing U.S. 2 at the end of Fryelands Boulevard.
To see the complete zoning map, see http://www.archivemonroewa.org/citygov/depts/comdev/planning/ZoningMap.pdf.
Different towns around the state are reacting in different ways.
Some, such as Burien, are setting up temporary rules for where such stores can be located. The rules are good for six months, after which time the city can revisit the rules and change them if need be.
Kirkland is allowing the new industry to proceed freely.
Pasco has put a six-month moratorium on recreational marijuana businesses.
Richland passed an ordinance granting the city planning manager the right to refuse to give permits to businesses that violate federal law, which could result in the prohibition of any such businesses in that city.
The Obama Administration has said that, as long as Washington and Colorado (the other state that legalized recreational marijuana by citizen’s initiative) meet eight criteria, the federal government will not interfere. The criteria includes keeping the product within the state, keeping it out of the hands of kids, not letting organized crime get involved, not getting other drugs such as cocaine into the mix, policing drugged driving, and not using federal land to produce pot.