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Opening the Door

Why the state cannabis board is accepting new retail applications

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The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board recently announced changes that should please both licensed producers and those hoping to become licensed.

On Monday, the board will begin accepting new retail cannabis license applications as part of their process to align the previously unregulated medical marijuana market with the recreational market.

The move comes as a result of the Cannabis Patient Protection Act, which created a three-tier, priority-based system for licensing existing medical marijuana dispensaries. Existing dispensaries must be licensed by July 1, 2016 or face closure.

Jack Grippi, a budtender at Cinder, a recreational marijuana store, can see positives and negatives to aligning the medical and recreational sides of the industry.

"The access should open up and maybe we'll see more high-CBD stuff," he says. "And a little more consumer knowledge, because the medical stores should be more accessible to people who wouldn't necessarily go.

"The higher regulation is going to be good for everybody, because the I-502 producers will have more people buying from them, and that'll put more money in the industry."

On the other hand, Grippi says the industry, which already feels like survival of the fittest, will become more competitive with the new regulations.

Applicants will be prioritized according to a three-tier system.

Level One includes those who applied for a marijuana retail license before July 1, 2014, operated or were employed by a collective garden before Jan. 1, 2013, have maintained a state and local business license and have a history of paying state taxes.

Level Two applies to those who have operated or were employed by a collective garden before Jan. 1, 2013, have maintained a state and local business license and have a history of paying state taxes and fees.

Level Three includes applicants who don't meet the requirements for levels one or two.

Those interested in commenting on this change will have their chance Nov. 3 during a public hearing at the Spokane Convention Center.

In other news, the board has lifted the restriction on existing producers that limited them to growing at 70 percent of their capacity. Licensed producers can now grow to 100 percent of their capacity, limited to a single license.

This restriction was put in place to prevent overproduction and stop product from crossing state lines; its temporary lifting will allow growers to meet expected demands from new retail stores. A new limit will be imposed at a later date. ♦