The Columbian / Associated Press

Washington starts aligning medical, recreational pot

OLYMPIA — The state on Wednesday began the process of aligning the medical marijuana market with the existing recreational market for cannabis.

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board’s actions are the result of new legislation which established a priority system for licensing existing medical marijuana stores.

The emergency rules allow the board to begin the process of licensing new retail outlets that may sell both medical and recreational marijuana. Existing recreational stores may also apply for an endorsement to sell both.

The board will begin accepting retail license applications on Oct. 12.

There will not be an initial cap on the number of retail licenses that will be approved by the board.

Medical marijuana outlets must be licensed by next July 1, or face closure.

First priority for licenses will be given to people who applied for a marijuana retail license prior to July 1, 2014, operated (or were employed by) a collective garden prior to Jan. 1, 2013, have maintained a state and local business license and have a history of paying state taxes.

In a separate action, the board is notifying marijuana producers that the restriction of their license to grow at 70 percent of capacity has been lifted. Producers may now grow to 100 percent of capacity.

The restriction was intended to keep marijuana production within the estimated limits of the recreational market, to prevent out-of-state sales. But the opening of new stores is raising the demand for marijuana, the board said.