How has cannabis law changed over the past years? Take a look back at WA cannabis law as we saw it in 2013.

Do you remember when cannabis concentrates were banned?

i502 law changes rapidly. Eventually federal changes will come… still waiting.

The 411 on Washington’s new I-502 rules: Top 10 things to know

Listed below are the top 10 things you should know if you’re looking to operate a cannabusiness in Washington State. This list was compiled using Chapter 314–55 of the Washington Administrative Code (WAC): Marijuana Licenses, Application Process, Requirements, and Reporting, adopted by the Washington State Liquor Control Board on July 7, 2013. Familiarize yourself with the code if you plan to get into the game. Also, and not to be too obvious, be aware of what role you will be fulfilling — be it producer, processor or retailer — as they each have specific guidelines you’ll need to follow.

For more information, please visit http://lcb.wa.gov/marijuana/initiative_502_proposed_rules.

  1. Making friends: Any city, county, tribal government or port authority that has jurisdiction in your designated area has the right to contest your license, whether you are a producer, processor or retailer. Decide if it would be beneficial to approach these entities in advance to make your business intentions clear.
  2. Not-so-weird science: Everything produced for sale will need samples delivered to a third-party laboratory for testing of content. Although this in itself will create a separate, burgeoning industry facilitated by Cannabis production, it wouldn’t hurt to familiarize yourself with the available labs and their accreditation. WAC 314–55–102 lays out the details of this process on pages 22 to 24.
  3. 21 is the magic number: Don’t mess with it. Not just patrons are required to be 21 years of age, that goes for all employees and anyone associated with the operation as well. Don’t try to open anywhere near an establishment that caters to a predominantly under-21 audience. Be sure to check approved forms of identification (expiration dates included) of all staff and customers. It’s likely that authorities will target cannabusinesses as they do alcohol stores to ensure proper ID checks and keep everyone on their toes.
  4. Advertising changes: The advertising rules have been slightly refined with the recent additions to I-502. These can be found in WAC 314–55–155 on pages 30 to 31. Be mindful of these when considering design concepts for your sign, packaging and the like. Again, 21 is the magic number, so any depictions that might appeal to younger individuals will be subject to scrutiny. This is important, as the Cannabis community does love its colorful displays and cartoon characters. Also, factor in the labeling necessities detailed in WAC 314–55–105 (pp. 24–28), as these are a must on any product being sold. Be safe from the get-go instead of being sorry later.
  5. Insurance and security: You’re going to need to spend a fair amount on both. Luckily, if anything happens to your business beyond your control (e.g., theft, vandalism or injury), these two investments will more than likely be complementary. Plus, although there is little excitement in purchasing Washington State–certified insurance, who doesn’t enjoy the prospect of detailing and implementing a full-blown security network that’ll make your fortress impregnable? Details appear in WAC 314–55–082 and –083, respectively, and can be found on pages 12 to 15.
  6. Criminals need not apply: It’s a harsh reality, but that’s how it is. Sorry, but save it for the judge. The board has put forth a point system to gauge ineligibility for licensing for various levels of criminal records under WAC 314–55–040. If you or any of your employees has eight or more points, then you risk denial or revocation of your license. Furthermore, if any criminal convictions happen after certification for you or any staff, the board must be notified and you still risk losing the license. The details can be found on pages seven and eight.
  7. Fees abound: Lots of them. Most of these are covered on pages 10 and 11. Whether you’re planning on producing, processing or retailing Cannabis, be ready for the $250 application fee and an annual fee of $1,000. Also expect you and your staff to provide fingerprints for the board initially and at random periods in the future, the cost of which you’ll also bear — $43.50 per person can add up quickly. There are also fees for changes in business ownership. Be aware of the fines for breaking the rules covered in WAC 314–55–520, –525, –530 and –535. Naturally, these are best avoided for reasons expressed in the next section, but be fully aware of the true cost of mistakes, and train your staff accordingly.
  8. The board is king: Don’t ever forget this fact. You might be the feudal lord of your own business fiefdom, but the Washington State Liquor Control Board is your true master now. The refined rules for I-502 state that the board will treat every licensed business — whether applying or awarded — on an individual basis. The good news is that this means the board thinks you’re special. The bad news is that the rules also give the board plenty of reasons to revoke your license, too many to list here. So, be nice to them. Be as cooperative as possible. They, like you, are spearheading a controversial program that will most likely be the blueprint for the entire nation. As such, it’s your responsibility to ensure that they think highly of the business community they oversee. Act like you’re on the same team, because in the larger picture, you are.
  9. Recordkeeping: Keeping accurate records is probably the most important aspect of managing your business, especially regarding regulatory affairs. You must keep airtight, ultra-organized and obsessive-compulsive records. If you’re awful at keeping track of things, hire someone who’s organized, 21 or older and has no criminal record. It’s no joke that you’ll need to keep track of everything for the board — every sale, every delivery, every sample from a supplier, every sample sent to the lab. A full list appears in WAC 314–55–087 on pages 17 through 19. Plus, you’ll need to hang on to these records for three years. Your own records will also be important, as you’ll be required to submit tax information and payment to the board on a monthly basis. If any issues come up, the board will want to see your documentation. Look at this as a good thing, though — any serious business should have outstanding bookkeeping, and compliance here will help foster a good relationship with the board and bring organization and prosperity to your business at the same time.

1. Extracts can’t be sold separately: WAC 314–55–079 (2) states: “Marijuana extracts, such as hash, hash oil, shatter, and wax can be infused in products sold in a marijuana retail store, but RCW 69.50.354 does not allow the sale of extracts that are not infused in products. A marijuana extract does not meet the definition of a marijuana-infused product per RCW 69.50.101.” This means that you can infuse these variants into products you sell, but selling them individually is prohibited.

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