Washington State Releases Proposed Recreational Marijuana Rules

SEATTLE, WA —  Eight months after voters approved the Initiative 502, legalizing the  adult use of marijuana, officials in Washington have taken the first steps towards establishing rules for the state’s new recreational marijuana industry.

The 46 pages of draft regulations announced by the state Liquor Control Board Thursday  include “seed to store” tracking of marijuana, limits on the number of retail outlets per county, bans of marijuana extracts, including hash, oils, and concentrates, and mandatory 24-hour video surveillance at all marijuana related businesses.

The official Washington state logo issued by the State Liquor Control Board for marijuana and marijuana infused products.

The official Washington state logo issued by the State Liquor Control Board for marijuana and marijuana infused products.

Labeling requirements for marijuana and infused edible products would be required to warn that consumption of marijuana “may be habit forming,” and are unlawful outside of Washington State.  An official state-issued logo featuring Washington state with a marijuana silhouette in the middle would also be required on all packages and labels.

Chair of the Washington State Liquor Control Board, Sharon Foster, says the board is trying to create a tightly regulated system that not only conforms to the wishes of the voters, but also allows companies large or small an equal place in the pot market.

The regulations are based on “hundreds of hours of internal research and deliberation, consultation with multiple industry experts and input from the over 3,000 individuals who attended our forums statewide,” Foster said Thursday.

Also among the regulations are there would be advertising restrictions, including a ban on ads intended to appeal to those under 21.

Washington would use a criminal history point system in determining whether someone is eligible for obtaining a license to grow, sell or process marijuana.  One felony in the past decade or two misdemeanors in the past three years would disqualify an applicant, unless the charges were marijuana-related.  Up to two marijuana possession misdemeanors or any single state or federal conviction for selling, growing or possessing marijuana could be waived on a case-by-case basis.


Under I-502, the Liquor Control Board was given the task of establishing the guildelines for the marijuana industry. Here are some of the highs (and buzzkills) of the proposed regulations:

  • No sales of marijuana extracts, such as hash, oils or dabs, would be allowed unless infused into another product, such as edibles.
  • Marijuana labeling would be required to include serving sizes, use-by date, allergy info.
  • Any marijuana product sold at a state-licensed stores would carry a label noting that it “may be habit forming”
  • All marijuana products would be required to be kept behind the counter, or any locked area where customers don’t have direct access
  • All marijuana establishments would be 21+ only.
  • Marijuana retail stores would have to be stand-alone stores, so
  • One “serving size” of marijuana would be defined as 10 mg active THC, with the size of any marijuana infused products limited to 10 servings.
  • Marijuana transaction limits would be set at one ounce of marijuana, 16 ounces of solid marijuana infused products (food items) or 72 ounces of marijuana infused liquids in a single retail transaction
  • For growers, any plant waste matter that isn’t utilized, such as the roots, stems or leaves, would be required to be “rendered unusable” by mixing with soil, compost or food waste
  • All marijuana would be required to be tested by third party, independent labs for quality and safety.  Upon the customer’s request, the marijuana retail outlet must disclose the name of the testing facility to the customer.
  • There would be mandatory quality standards, and any marijuana that fails to meet quality standards would be required to immediately be rendered unusable.
  • Any pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides used in growing marijuana must be fully disclosed
  • All marijuana must be grown in an enclosed, locked facility
  • Growers, processors and retailers must notify the Liquor Control Board of any marijuana shipments
  • Growers would need to keep extensive records of all plants from seed to shipment.
  • Marijuana businesses would be prohibited from employing anyone under 21
  • Criminal and financial background checks would be conducted of applicants and anyone who invests more than $10,000 in a marijuana business.
  • Labeling requirements include the following mandatory statements:
    • “Warning: Smoking may be hazardous to your health”
    • “There may be health risks associated with consumption of this product”
    • “For use only by adults 21 and older. Keep out of reach of children”
    • “Marijuana can impair concentration, coordination, and judgment. Do not operate a vehicle or machinery under the influence of this drug”
  • Marijuana infused products intended to be eaten would also be required to state the following:
    • “This product is infused with marijuana or active compounds of marijuana”
    • “Caution: when eaten, the intoxicating effects of this drug may be delayed by two or more hours”
  • The Concentration of THC, THCA, CBD, CBDA, CBN, CBG, including a total of active cannabinoids (potency profile) would also be required on all products.

This is only the first step of the rule making process for the Liquor Control Board, who will ultimately will oversee the growers, sellers, producers and processors of marijuana and marijuana-related products.  The board will now begin accepting  comments on the proposed rules, and with plans to use reaction to help shape more formal draft rules in June.

sample Washington marijuana label

A sample label provided by the Liquor Control Board

The Liquor Control Board’s goal is to finalize the rules in August, when they will begin a 30-day application process for growers, sellers and distributors.  The Liquor Control Board hopes to issue licenses by December 1.

Marijuana sales in Washington should begin in early 2014, unless the Department of Justice attempts to intervene, as marijuana remains federally illegal.

Washington state Governor Jay Inslee said Thursday he believes that the state is “on the right track” to make legal, recreational cannabis sales a reality.

“I’m impressed with the depth and thoughtfulness of their approach and look forward to moving forward,” he said of the Liquor Control Board’s efforts, adding that he hoped that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder would be satisfied by the state’s regulation.

“I don’t think you can design a system with much more integrity, as far as tracking the product from the producer to the consumer,” Inslee said. “This plan has a robust system of controls and checks in a variety of ways.”