Washington became the second state in the nation to open dispensaries for the legal sale of recreational marijuana on Tuesday, July 8. As other states eye Washington’s roll-out of the legal marijuana trade, the state prepares for potential hiccups and hopes for Colorado-like revenues as citizens gain access to state-approved marijuana.
Both Washington and Colorado voters approved ballot initiatives in 2012, legalizing recreational marijuana use in those states. While Colorado initiated sales of the state-sanctioned pot on Jan. 1 of this year, Washington was a little late to the game.
“We expect the recreational marijuana market in Washington, much like the one already functioning in Colorado, will be successful in regulating marijuana for adult use,” said Erik Altieri, communications director for the national office of NORML. “It will put control of marijuana sales in the hands of state-regulated businesses instead of the criminal black market, generate new tax revenue and employment opportunities, allow precious law enforcement resources to be redirected to combat violent crime, and protect individual civil liberties.”
What the Law Allows
Under the Washington law, anyone age 21 or over can purchase and consumer marijuana in that state. This includes buyers who travel from other states. The law allows for the purchase and possession of up to 1 ounce of plant material or 72 ounces of infused liquids, like oils. Eventually, purchasers will also be allowed to buy up to 16 ounces of edible marijuana products, though no vendors have been approved to sell edibles yet.
So far, the state has issued 24 retailer licenses as of Monday July 7. Other licenses will be issued with a maximum of 334 stores licensed in the first year.
“This country will not perish, either morally or spiritually, if marijuana markets are legalized across the nation,” she said. “I think that our program is more interesting than Colorado’s because we allowed in all types — not just existing medical marijuana entrepreneurs — who will bring all kinds of corporate experience, talent and discipline to the table for the betterment and professionalism of the industry as a whole.”
Some retailers expect they will run out of product in hours or days after they open their doors. This is because only a few producers have been approved. About 80 growers have been licensed, but thousands have applied. Of those approved for growing, only a fraction of their crops have undergone the required lab-testing, so many harvests simply aren’t ready.
“There is a gold rush mentality. Many didn’t read what it would require to get a license. … We didn’t expect 7,000 applicants,” said Liquor Control Board spokesman Brian Smith of the number of interested growers, processors and retailers.
These shortages could mean some retailers will limit purchases to a few grams in order to extend the supply. It will also translate to higher prices.
Though prices are expected to fall in the coming months, buyers can expect to pay $15 to $30 per gram initially, according to Dominic Corva of Seattle’s Center for the Study of Cannabis and Social Policy.
“It’ll be at least three to five years before we meet the demand,” says one approved grower.
Though one of the touted benefits of legalized recreational pot is that it will do away with black market marijuana, the state will have to first ensure a plentiful supply.