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In 2012, Washington and Colorado voters made history when they approved measures to legalize recreational marijuana. Washington Initiative 502 “authorizes the state liquor board to regulate and tax marijuana for persons twenty-one years of age or older.”Since the vote in Washington, the Liquor Board has written a complex set of rules for the state’s new, legal recreational cannabis marketplace. The agency has also set limits on the amount of marijuana that can be grown. And the Board has begun to license growers, processors and retailers.For now, the Obama administration has signaled it will not interfere with Washington and Colorado’s legal pot experiment, unless there is evidence that legal pot is “leaking” to other states or children are getting access to the legal product. The feds are also watching to see if criminal organizations exploit the legal market.The first marijuana retail stores in Washington opened in July 2014.Recreational marijuana is also set to become legal in Oregon on July 1, 2015 after voters approved Measure 91 in November 2014.

Revised Pot Rules Ditch Logo, Allow Outdoor Grows

Washington State Liquor Control Board

Washington’s official pot logo is out. Outdoor marijuana grows are in.

Those are just two of the changes to the proposed rules for the state’s new recreational marijuana market. The Liquor Control Board voted Wednesday to approve the revised regulations.

The biggest change in the rules comes as no surprise. The state will now allow outdoor marijuana grows as long as they’re fenced in.

Liquor Board member Chris Marr explained why he and his colleagues had a change of heart about outdoor cultivation. “How is an eight-foot cyclone fence with security cameras any less secure than a corrugated steel building in an industrial park? If you think about it I don’t think we’ve given up anything in terms of public safety.”

Another change: the “produced in Washington” label for legal pot has been axed. It was a silhouette of the state with a pot leaf in the center. Critics said it promotes pot use and brands Washington as the marijuana state. The Board did reserve to create a more subdued logo in the future.

The 42-pages of regulations cover seed to sale and they’re prescriptive – down to the pixels required on security cameras. The goal of all these rules is to create a safe and tightly controlled legal market for recreational pot.

But Board member Marr cautioned there are some things regulators can’t control. “Clearly the challenge is you have an illicit marketplace that is very robust out there. You also have a medical marijuana marketplace that I think by anyone’s admission is pretty much unregulated. The question is how much of the market we can obtain with those two factors in place?”

No one seems willing to guess what that market share will be.

Jaz Sangha was sitting in the audience as the Board met. He represents the owners of the old state liquor stores – many of whom are struggling to survive. Sangha says some of his members would like to convert their back liquor warehouse space into a marijuana retail shop with a separate entrance. Whether that would be allowed is a question.

Sangha himself is curious about the marijuana business. But admits he says he knows very little about it and worries because it’s still against federal law. “I don’t want to be sitting in a jail somewhere in federal prison and I don’t know if that’s worth it, but yes it’s a business opportunity that’s worth exploring.”

In the coming weeks, Washington’s Liquor Control Board will take public comment on the proposed pot rules. Then in September the regulations will become effective and the state will start accepting applications from would-be growers, processors and retailers of produced in Washington marijuana.

On the Web:

10 Changes in Proposed Rules - 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."