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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.

Washington Plans To Issue 20 Marijuana Retail Licenses Monday

Austin Jenkins
Northwest News Network

The Washington State Liquor Control Board plans to issue about 20 marijuana retail licenses on July 7. The first pot stores could open the next day -- after a 24-hour waiting period. But the state cautions many stores may not be ready yet for customers and marijuana could be in short supply.

The Liquor Control Board's Brian Smith described an unusual situation where government regulators are moving faster than the private sector.

“What you find is a lot of times there are places that we want to license, that we’re ready to license and they are not ready,” he said.

Even stores that are ready and get a license may decide not open their doors immediately. Smith confirmed that there are supply chain issues.

“Product is going to be a little bit tight as this market emerges,” he said.

But Smith is confident by the end of the summer supply will keep up with demand.

So far, nearly 80 growers have been licensed for enough pot canopy to cover nearly a dozen football fields. The first 20 or so retail licenses will go to stores in more urban areas. Seattle is likely to see the first pot store. Eventually there could be more than 300 marijuana retail outlets statewide.

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."