Washington state regulators consider revamping marijuana rules

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Washington cannabis regulators are proposing a wide-ranging overhaul of the state’s industry rules, which, if approved, could have a big impact on the way MJ business is conducted there.

Proposals include:

  • Boosting minority ownership of cannabis businesses.
  • Paving the way for home deliveries of medical cannabis.
  • Allowing the smallest growers to increase the size of their operations to become more competitive.

While Washington state is not currently issuing any more marijuana licenses, 11 of the more than 500 retailers have surrendered their licenses, according to Rick Garza, director of the Liquor and Cannabis Board.

Under the board’s proposal, those licenses could either be reissued or new permits could be granted to participants in a social equity program.

Cities or counties would first need to agree to increase the number of marijuana shops within their boundaries.

The board proposed two bills for the next session of the Legislature.

One measure would allow struggling tier-one producers – the smallest size, limited to 2,000 square feet of plants – to sell medical-grade product directly to the state’s 36,000 registered MMJ patients.

Patients have long complained that they have a hard time finding medical-grade cannabis, which must go through additional testing for pesticides and heavy metals, in retail stores.

Garza said the proposal could help the patients while giving the growers an incentive to offer more medically compliant product.

The tier-one growers could sell to patients on-site, with other growers selling at indoor farmers-market-style locations or by delivery, Garza said.

Local jurisdictions would need to approve the measures.

To avoid competition with other licensed retailers, the growers or farmers markets must be at least 3 miles away from established retailers.

Another legislative proposal would create what some critics describe as a long-overdue social equity program, encouraging greater ownership of marijuana businesses by minorities, women and military veterans.

Businesses would be eligible if they are owned by a woman, minority or veteran, or if a majority of its ownership group are members of a “protected class” under the state’s anti-discrimination law.

Applicants would be barred from consideration if any owner already has a majority stake in another cannabis retail license.

The legislation also would create a technical assistance program run by the Department of Commerce that would provide grants totaling at least $100,000 per year to help businesses owned by a minority, a woman or a veteran to navigate the licensing process, receive compliance and financial training as well as buy equipment, software or facilities.

 – Associated Press