On Wednesday, the Washington State Liquor Board filed draft legal pot rules with the state code reviser. The rules are more thorough than a previous draft released by the board, and overall, I think they are great. I remain quite pleased that we placed legal pot in the hands of the state's official rum-running agency. Here are some features of our new pot rules:
Outdoor growing allowed: Believing growers can secure a fenced field as effectively as a corrugated metal warehouse, and that eastern Washington outdoor will lower the price of pot, the liquor board reversed course and allowed legal cannabis to directly photosynthesize sunlight.
Unadulterated hash sales banned: Sticking to the ridiculous claim that hash does not "contain marijuana" and thus doesn't qualify as a "marijuana-infused product," the board intends to disallow retail sales of unadulterated cannabis concentrates. But wait! Drop a minuscule amount of other crap into that concentrate and the liquor board believes the product suddenly "contains marijuana" and can be sold at retail.
Adulterated hash sales promoted: Based on that silly-ass logic, expect to purchase concentrates in novel adulterated forms. Hash oil will include a drop of glycerin, ethanol, or propylene glycol to make certain the oil "contains marijuana." Hash will include a grain of sand, a drop of water, or the cheapest allowable filler a processor can purchase to make certain the product "contains marijuana." For nostalgia's sake, I prefer a single dog hair adulterate my legal hash.
Washington pot is organic: The only fertilizers, pesticides, and other pot production helpers allowed must be listed by the state Department of Agriculture or the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) as allowed in organic production under federal rules. However, pot products may not be labeled organic unless those federal rules allow it.
Retail license lottery and arbitrary application window: Legal pot license applications will be accepted for 30 days only. In the case of retail licenses, the board will limit the number of licenses on a per-county basis after first calculating the number of licenses required by major cities within those counties. The state intends to create a retail license lottery to "fairly" distribute the opportunity to apply for a pot license in desirable locations. Even with scant pot shop plans, buy a winning lotto ticket and you may become the hottest investment of the day.
Food serving sizes: A single dose of ganja food is set at 10 milligrams of THC. A marijuana-infused product may contain no more than 100mg THC. Say good-bye to the unexpected coma-inducing mini-brownie.
Concentrate serving sizes: Since adulterated concentrates are marijuana-infused products, it appears that each package of hash oil may contain no more than 100mg of THC. If an adulterated concentrate is 50% THC, each package must weigh 0.2 grams or less. So expect to buy adulterated concentrates in pellet-sized packs.
Pesticide disclosure: Consumers must be provided information about their pot that includes the pesticides and growing medium used, the type of extraction processes employed, and the levels of 6 major cannabinoids and acids—THC, THC acid, CBD, CBD acid, CBN, and CBG.
No landlord self-incrimination: A rule requiring landlords to attest to federal law violations was nixed.
Restricted pot shop hours: Legal pot can be bought between 8 a.m. and midnight, four hours less than legal liquor. "I believe that this is an issue which impacts 24 hour nightlife cities like Seattle adversely, with very little impact on the rest of the state," said board member Chris Marr. "Is the sale of marijuana at 1 a.m. as much of a public safety threat as the sale of alcohol at 1 a.m.?"
Punishment by plant destruction: Licensees who violate the rules will be fined. But pot growers who violate the rules a second or third time will have 25-50% of their crops destroyed. This is intended to affect small and large growers equally, where a seemingly-steep monetary fine may be overlooked by large growers.
Medical pot will sprout the system: Licensed growers will have a 15-day "don't ask, don't tell" phase in which they may source outside seeds and starts.
Zoning definitions improved: Licensees may not site within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, playgrounds, transit centers, libraries, child care centers, recreation centers, or game arcades. What constitutes such features was a bit murky. Following very specific and helpful suggestions from Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, the liquor board clarified these definitions.
Financiers must reside here: There was some question about whether the rules allowed for out-of-state investors to cash in on our legal pot system. The board clarified this to say nobody can profit from pot investing unless they live here.
State tracking system: Legal pot licensees must submit monthly reports to the liquor board that include sales, purchases, inventory on hand, etc. The liquor board intends to issue a request for proposals to create a software system into which licensees will upload this data.
No individual license cap: Liquor board member Chris Marr suggested a cap on the number of licenses an individual may possess, but that is not in the rules. "In the absense of a cap," says Marr, "it will be possible and even probable that a few well-qualified, well-capitalized applicants will create an oligopoly market with all its potential downsides: branding, advertising, and marketing, the ability to influence prices, and so on. [...] This will be a decision which will characterize our system for years to come."
No licensee pot limits defined: The rules do not mention how much pot licensees may possess, something initiative drafter Alison Holcomb says the law requires. "The requirement serves a number of practical purposes," Holcomb tells The Stranger, "and a significant political one: in light of DOJ's crackdown on large-scale operations in California, wouldn't it be advisable to give the federal government notice of the sizes under consideration here in Washington before applicants invest time, energy, and money in creating operational plans that may be rendered moot?"
Anti-kid packaging: Marijuana-infused products must be sold in child-resistant packaging, which may not contain child-appealing imagery like cartoons and toys.
On the whole, the rules are sensible, informed, well-intended, and thorough. I've witnessed other state agencies—mainly the Department of Health—deal with pot and it has always left me with a salty taste in my mouth. The liquor board, in comparison, is a shot of smooth bourbon: mature, to the point, mostly non-judgmental, doing its job and doing it well. Except for the part about banning the retail sale of unadulterated hash—which is downright stupid if not erroneously pedantic—this is a pretty good set of rules for the legal pot industry.
Yesterday's liquor board meeting can be watched here.