By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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The Associated Press
SPOKANE — A maximum of 334 locations would sell recreational marijuana in Washington under rules proposed Wednesday by the state Liquor Control Board.
The board also set a production cap of 40 metric tons of marijuana per year and limited the number of licenses individual entities could hold.
“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 chair Sharon Foster.
“We believe these rules meet the eight federal government enforcement priorities within [last] Thursday's guidance memo from the Department of Justice.”
Washington and Colorado legalized the recreational use of marijuana last fall.
The board in July had filed proposed rules, which it revised after five public hearings.
There is a 30-day public comment period before the rules are adopted.
Board members said retail stores could open as early as next June.
The Justice Department said last week that it would not sue Washington or
Colorado over plans to tax and regulate pot sales for adults as long as the states adhere to the federal priorities that include preventing drugged driving and keeping marijuana away from kids and off the black market.
The Justice Department said state regulatory systems could actually enhance federal law enforcement goals by keeping profits from cartels.
The revised rules set the maximum amount of space for marijuana production at 2 million square feet.
They also limit any entity to three producer or processor licenses and three retail licenses.
“We want to avoid a market dominated by large players, which could drive up prices and encourage aggressive marketing,” board member Chris Marr said.
The most populous cities within each county are allocated a proportionate number of stores, and there are also at-large stores available to serve other areas of each county.
King County, the state's most populous, could have up to 61 stores, with up to 21 of those in Seattle.
Six marijuana outlets would be in Clallam County and four in Jefferson County.
Each county gets three “at-large” pot stores not assigned to a specific city in addition to two in Port Angeles, one in Port Townsend and one in Sequim.
Retail license allocations are based on population, accessibility and consumption.
“The specific locations would be selected by lottery in the event the number of applications exceeds the allotted amount for the cities and county,” the Liquor Control Board said in a Wednesday memo.
Public hearings on the proposed revised rules will be held in October.
The state is expected to begin accepting applications from marijuana producers, processors and retailers for 30 days beginning Nov. 16.
Liquor Control Board spokesman Brian Smith predicted that it will take three months to process the “rush of applications,” with stores opening in late May or June.
“Today is an important day,” Smith said.
“Now, people will have a good opportunity to see what the system is likely to look like, including the cities.”
King County will have the most retail pot stores with 61, followed by Snohomish County's 35 and Pierce County's 31.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.