This Month: The First Legal Pot Plants in the Ground

Many of the pot plants that people will be smoking recreationally—and legally—next year are already planted. The reason why? Once licenses are issued next February, state rules will allow cannabis producers a 15-day "don't ask, don't tell" period where they may obtain seeds, starts, and nonflowering cannabis plants from anywhere, no questions asked. Many of those plants are growing right now, scattered across the state among the thousands of medical cannabis gardens.

November 18: State Accepts Applications

Starting on this date, cannabis entrepreneurs have 30 days to submit applications for a business license. The Washington State Liquor Control Board will review producer and processor applications as they come in, says spokesman Brian Smith, but it will hold retail applications until the end of the application window to determine whether it's necessary to conduct a lottery (if the state gets more applications than the number of licenses allotted for a particular region, the lottery will decide who gets a license and who doesn't).

December 18: Application Period Closes

All of this is uncharted territory, to be sure, but Smith estimates the agency will take 90 days to process applications. During this time, they will review each business plan to make sure it complies with strict regulations.

January 13: Legislature Convenes

The liquor board intends to lobby for three pot-related bills in the 2014 legislative session. The first would allow selling pot among processors, fixing a legal quirk that bans cannabis food-makers from procuring ingredients like hash oil from other pot businesses. It would also limit hash transactions to seven grams—far less than the existing law allows citizens to possess. A second bill would let the liquor board employ minors to conduct stings on pot businesses, and a third bill would turn liquor board enforcement employees into a state police force.

Late February: First Licenses Issued

Or maybe March, says Smith. Once the agency approves pot- growing licenses, Washington's aforementioned first batch of pot plants will shimmy to their final destinations. Some of these adolescent plants will be huge by this time, capable of blooming more than a pound of pot. In two months, most will be harvested. The state plans to license two million square feet of recreational cannabis production—enough for around 200,000 full-grown plants. Large grows are likely to pack 3,000 plants into a single facility, while small producers may have as few as 100 plants.

May or June: Pot Shops Open

An approved pot business will have up to a year to activate their state license, but some of the expected 334 pot shops will certainly try to open as quickly as possible. Once harvested, the first batch of legal cannabis will take a few weeks, at least, to dry and process. As with most alcohol and cheeses, a longer rest, done right, tends to bring out the best in cannabis flowers, but like early Washington distillers sent "white whiskey" to market, expect the first retail cannabis to be "quick cured." recommended