I-502 Marijuana Licenses in Washington
A brief intro on the requirements to obtain a producer, processor, and retail license in WA state.
The initial application.So you want to start a marijuana operation in Washington state, or get what you are doing now above board. Washington's historic I-502 legislation is complex, so you should talk to an attorney and not take this guide to be definitive. The complexity of the law demonstrates that the initiative isn't so much about promoting marijuana, it's about ending the long period of 'prohibition.' There are basic requirements you will have to meet to even get in the running for a license. Criminal background checks and WA residency for starters. You can fulfil your residency in a host of ways, such as showing utility bills or a driver's license. Check the DOL for ways to show residency. The hardest initial requirement will be locating your business. On November 3rd, the Liquor Control Board passed emergency rules to comply with the interpretation of I-502 by Attorney General Holder's office -- 1,000 ft from libraries, parks, schools, day cares, rec centers, transit stations, and schools would be measured as the crow flies! Some websites, such as Free Distance Calculator, allow you to use google maps to determine this distance from property line to property line. However, many questions remained unanswered. The board clairified that parks have to be municipal parks, and hiking trails don't count, but what about open spaces and fairgrounds found in rural, traditionally 'Western' localities? And 'child care centers' poses a whole host of issues, as the legislation does not mention they must be state certified or full-time centers. There could be child care centers located in people's homes, in dance or activity schools, in churches -- none of these would necessarily appear on google maps. Although the rules do not require a landlord know what you are doing at a location, it is probably a good idea, especially in the retail context where they will find out soon enough, that you are getting into the marijuana business. The board has said they will be calling potential landlords to make sure a lease has been discussed, but a signed lease is not required. But without a signed lease, what can guarantee that the landlord won't lease the space to another business? The rules have certainly set applicants up to lose a lot of money up front, especially since product will not even be available until Spring 2014. Another unintentional consequence of the 1000 foot rule is that small towns, where schools and parks are located within a few city blocks, have been virtually banned from this legislation. It is yet to be seen whether the City of North Bonneville, a tiny town which made headlines when its mayor campaigned for a city run store, will or will not put in an application. (Full disclosure, this lawyer helps businesses in large and small towns, including Skamania County, where there is a moratorium.) After the application is in, there is a lottery for the winners. The allotments are posted on the liquor control board website, and each applicant has three chances for a license. There are no limit on producer and processor licenses, but there will be a lottery for qualified retail applicants. Questions remain however, as some applicants are mini-marts that cannot add marijuana to an existing business, but they could obstensibly win the license and convert their business. Other applicants are in areas where there is a moratorium; the control board has said they will still issue state licenses. Some applicants have picked their spots, only to find that the local jurisdiction is zoning them out of business! Of the over 300 licenses available, only half of these have been applied for, and many of these applicants will not meet the standards of the liquor board or local city governments.
The licensing process.I will update this section once the Dec. 20th deadline passes! I am attorney who has a stake in retail, do not take this guide as legal advice and hire your own attorney if you are even thinking about spending money on this process!