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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Marijuana Draft Rules Already Face Opposition

Washington State Liquor Control Board

Washington’s proposed marijuana rules aren’t even 24-hours old. But already critics are finding things not to like. The 46-pages of draft regulations were released Thursday and cover everything from where marijuana can be grown to the criminal backgrounds of license applicants. But it’s the section on marijuana concentrates that’s getting some negative buzz.

Under the proposed rules, anyone who wants a piece of the legal marijuana business would have to submit to a background check -- even the financial backers of a marijuana start-up. A felony conviction in the last ten years would likely disqualify someone. But a couple of misdemeanor pot convictions would not count against an applicant.

Brian Smith, a spokesman for the Liquor Control Board, says that rule was written with black market operators in mind. “They want to get into the recreational marijuana market, they want to be legit, the Board wants them to get out the black market and to come into the recreational market and be legitimate and so that’s the thinking that the Board had.”

License applicants would be scored based on their criminal background.

Where marijuana can be grown has been a topic of much discussion. The Board proposes to limit grows to indoor, secure buildings or greenhouses – no emerald waves of marijuana plants out in the open.

But it’s another limitation in the proposed rules – having to do with a very specific marijuana product that getting a lot of attention. It’s a ban on hash and other forms of concentrated THC extracted from marijuana plants – unless it’s infused into a product.

“I believe that the products that we’re producing have received a bad rap because of the nickname BHO, Butane extracted hash oil,” says Jim Andersen. He works with a company called XTracted and he’s unhappy.

Andersen says Butane is often used to extract the THC, but if done right it leaves no chemical trace. He plans to fight the ban on raw marijuana extracts.

The Liquor Control Board’s Brian Smith says, “I think the Board was inclined to allow concentrates.”

But Smith says the Board got some legal advice to the contrary. “The law says the usable marijuana is the buds or the flowers of a marijuana plant and an extract doesn’t meet that criteria of being the bud.”

This interpretation concerns Alison Holcomb with the ACLU of Washington. She led the campaign to legalize recreational marijuana in Washington. “There are broader implications than the fact stores couldn’t sell those products.”

Holcomb says if the courts agreed that marijuana extracts don’t qualify under the law then anyone in possession of these products could face arrest and prosecution, "‘Because I-502 amended our possession law to decriminalize possession of usable marijuana and marijuana-infused products. Not marijuana in general.”

Holcomb now wants the Liquor Control Board to define exactly what a marijuana extract is. She says the legislature may ultimately need to get involved.

The proposed marijuana rules are the first, significant window in the Board’s thinking as it implements pot legalization in Washington. The plan is to have final rules in place by this summer and begin the application process for business licenses in September.

On the Web:

Initial draft rules for marijuana legalization - Washington Liquor Control Board

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."