State digs into conflicts over marijuana rules

The more licenses you seek, the better your chances, it appears. But is indoor growing better than outdoor growing? And should retail spots really be allowed to sell pot until 2 a.m.?
Crosscut archive image.

Marijuana growing under a medical marijuana prescription outside Tacoma. 1/2013

The more licenses you seek, the better your chances, it appears. But is indoor growing better than outdoor growing? And should retail spots really be allowed to sell pot until 2 a.m.?

Here's how to become the legal pot overlord of Washington:

Apply for every single retail seller's license that the state puts up for grabs on Sept. 14. Heck, you could submit applications for every grower's and processor's license made available on that date.

Multiple applications by one party increase the chances of multiple licenses. The Washington Liquor Control Board will eventually set a number of marijuana retail shops for each county, after which people can apply for the available licenses. If more applications show up than available licenses for a county, the selections will be done by random drawings.

"It could be limited by your ability to write $250 checks," said Chris Marr of the liquor board Wednesday. A Microsoft millionaire wanting to branch out could conceivably obtain a monopoly on pot in Washington, he speculated. Such a scenario is already under discussion with one former Microsoft manager, Jamen Shively, who has ambitions to become "Big Marijuana" in Washington and Colorado.

So far, Washington's draft recreational marijuana industry regulations don't address that scenario, said Karen McCall, the liquor board's rules coordinator. McCall briefed the liquor board Wednesday about the roughly 800 comments submitted by local authorities, stakeholders and other groups on a draft set of marijuana regulations.

On July 3, the board will file its proposed draft rules. Four public hearings across the state will follow. The board is scheduled to consider adopting the rules and any revisions on Aug. 14. The rules would then go into effect on Sept.14, which is also when the 30-day application period begins.

Licensed producers will likely be the first state-sanctioned marijuana firms to go into business, because the processors will need harvested plants, and the retailers will need the processed marijuana. Officials expect the marijuana industry to be in full bloom sometime in the first half of 2014.

Comments, suggestions and unresolved questions mentioned in Wednesday's briefing included:

  • Many growers are pushing for outdoor growth of marijuana. Currently, the draft regulations limit grow operations to indoors, likely in greenhouses. There is an outdoor-versus-indoor debate in pot circles on which is better for growing marijuana.
  • Some want to legalize the public sales of marijuana extracts, which would be oils or tinctures. These would be added to food or liquids. However, the state intends to keep the retail sale of extracts illegal. The idea is that the adding marijuana extracts to foods and liquids would be the domain of the licensed processors.
  • Some police and governments want better clarification on the definitions of schools, childcare centers, playgrounds and parks. The new state regulations will require licensed marijuana businesses to be at least 1,000 feet from these facilities.
  • Some local governments are requesting shorter hours of business for marijuana retailers. The current hours being looked at are 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. Requests have been made to narrow those to a window in the neighborhood of 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Some have suggested a 99-plant limit on growing operations in an attempt to head off the creation of huge marijuana corporate farms. Right now, there is no proposed state limit of the size of a growing operation.
  • One farmer suggested that existing farms be given first cracks at the growing licenses. That raised the question of the legal definition of a "farm."
  • The issue was raised of whether a new growth operation should use seeds or cuttings of existing plants to begin its first batch of plants. It was suggested that cuttings — "clones" — of existing plants be allowed to grow new plants during the first 15 days of the life of a growth operation.

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About the Authors & Contributors

John Stang

John Stang

John Stang is a freelance writer who often covers state government and the environment. He can be reached on email at and on Twitter at @johnstang_8