The Columbian / Associated Press

State to increase number of pot shops to serve medical users

OLYMPIA — Washington’s Liquor and Cannabis Board says it will increase the maximum number of marijuana stores in the state to help serve those who use the drug for medical reasons.

The board said Wednesday it intends to boost the number to 556 stores statewide, up from the previous cap of 334. Director Rick Garza says the goal is to help ensure patients have access to the products they need.

State lawmakers earlier this year passed a measure to reconcile Washington’s unregulated medical marijuana marketplace with its thoroughly regulated recreational system. Recreational stores can obtain an endorsement to sell products for medical use, and the board says 70 percent of existing stores have done so.

The board says it plans to double the number of available retail licenses in 10 counties with some of the highest medical marijuana sales. It will increase the available licenses in the remaining counties by 75 percent.