State regulators set new limits on future pot growers

Regulators of Washington state’s recreational pot industry issued new guidelines last week reducing the number of licenses that will be issued to pot producers and limiting the total growing capacity producers will be allowed to maintain.

Along with these new rules, officials with the Washington State Liquor Control Board, the state agency implementing the new marketplace, said they expect to begin issuing production and processing licenses in March despite the fact that a number of local governments have enacted bans or moratoriums on recreational pot.

Retail licenses are expected to be issued in the months that follow.

Whatcom County is among the jurisdictions that have blocked commercial pot. Members of the County Council voted unanimously Feb. 11 to approve a 60-day moratorium on new applications for pot producers, processors and retailers in the county’s unincorporated areas.

The liquor board’s new restrictions will allow each pot producer to hold only one license, as opposed to a previous three-license limit. Producers also will have their growing capacity capped at 70 percent of the maximum allowed by their production tier.

(The liquor board has split production licenses between three “tiers,” each defined by size: tier 1 includes growers with capacity under 2,000 square feet; tier 2 is between 2,000 square feet and 10,000 square feet; tier 3 is between 10,000 square feet and 30,000 square feet.)

Liquor board officials said the new limits are a necessary step to clear the way for the agency to begin issuing licenses. Said board chair Sharon Foster, in a news release: “We believe this is the most fair and equitable way to get the market up and running.”

Pot regulators are attempting to balance the need of meeting anticipated consumer demand once retail stores open later this year with concerns that allowing an oversupply of pot could fuel crime and underage use.

During a 30-day application window for marijuana business licenses, which closed Dec. 20, the liquor board received 2,858 applications for marijuana producers.

View an FAQ on the new licensing guidelines, courtesy of WSLCB:

[documentcloud url=https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/1021142-i-501-licensing-faq-feb-19.html format=normal sidebar=false ]

Evan Marczynski, associate editor of The Bellingham Business Journal, can be reached at 360-647-8805, Ext. 5052, or evan@bbjtoday.com.

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