Wash. delays pot grower, processor licenses

SEATTLE (AP) — Washington state is delaying its timeline for granting marijuana growing and processing licenses — and that means legal marijuana sales likely won't begin before spring of next year.

Rather than issue growing licenses this summer and processor licenses this fall, as called for in a tentative prior timeline, the Liquor Control Board will issue all licenses Dec. 1, spokesman Brian Smith said Wednesday.

That means the growers likely won't be able to get to work until December, and the final product probably won't be ready for a couple of months after that.

Washington joined Colorado last fall in becoming the first states to legalize recreational marijuana for adults over 21, and to allow the sale of taxed pot at state-licensed stores. Washington's Liquor Control Board has been devising rules for the industry, covering topics such as how the plants will be grown, how marijuana products will be tested for strength and quality, and how many retail stores will be allowed.

Issuing all the licenses at once will help growers because they'll have a better picture of the industry before they begin growing, Smith said.

"If you were interested in becoming any of our licensees, you'd want to have a good idea of what the business landscape is going to be," he said. "For example, if you want to grow, how much competition will you have? How many retailers will there be? You'll be able to get a sense of that right from the beginning."

The official timeline announced Wednesday was based on input from public forums that the board held around the state regarding its implementation of Initiative 502.

The board will begin vetting draft rules for all license types with stakeholders in mid-May. The rules are expected to become effective in August, and the board will begin accepting applications for growing, processing and retailing licenses in September.

Jamen Shively, a former Microsoft manager who is working to create a high-end marijuana brand called Diego Pellicer, after his great-grandfather, said the board is acting prudently.

"What we're doing here in the state of Washington is something of monumental importance," he said. "All eyes are going to be on Washington. Let's make sure we do this right."

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Johnson can be reached at https://twitter.com/GeneAPseattle

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