Washington state regulators set stricter limits on pot production

Wed Feb 19, 2014 8:53pm EST
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By Jonathan Kaminsky

OLYMPIA, Washington (Reuters) - Washington state marijuana regulators moved on Wednesday to curtail the size and number of pot farms it will allow to serve the state's nascent recreational cannabis market, citing the need to prevent excess supply from illicitly leaving the state.

Washington state and Colorado voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in 2012 even as pot remains illegal under federal law, and Washington plans to begin licensing retail pot stores in June. Colorado's first recreational pot stores opened last month.

The state had initially set no limits on the number of pot producers it would license and allowed individuals to apply for up to three licenses, each of up to 30,000 square feet in size.

Under the revised rules, each applicant will be allowed only a single license and will be permitted to grow on 70 percent of the initial maximum plot size. Regulators hope the changes will reduce the projected footprint of pot plantations statewide by two-thirds, to under 300 acres, said Randy Simmons, deputy director of the state's Liquor Control Board.

"Some of this will be self-correcting as operators fall out," said Simmons, whose Liquor Control Board has been tasked with regulating the state's marijuana industry.

Critics contend that the move is unfair to prospective growers, many of whom have signed leases based on the initial rules.

"It's coming too late in the game," said Hilary Bricken, a Seattle-based marijuana business lawyer. "Many growers made decisions on properties six to nine months ago and are now going to pay the price."

State regulators have received about 2,200 license applications to grow marijuana, out of about 7,000 pot business applications overall, according to the board.   Continued...

Cannabis plants that will soon be harvested grow at Northwest Patient Resource Center in Seattle, Washington January 27, 2012. REUTERS/Cliff DesPeaux