OLYMPIA, Wash., July 4 (Reuters) - Washington state was the first in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana use, but image-conscious regulators there think the cannabis-leaf logo designed for state-licensed pot merchandise conveys the wrong impression of the Evergreen State.
Dropping the marijuana leaf as an official state symbol was one of several changes contained in the latest draft of measures proposed by a three-member panel devising new regulations for the state's nascent marijuana industry.
The proposals, released on Wednesday and containing mostly minor revisions to an earlier plan, included rules governing cultivation, sales and taxation of pot due to take effect when state-licensed retail marijuana stores open next spring.
Washington and Colorado became the only two U.S. states to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use after approval by voters last November, though Washington's law went into effect first.
Both states, along with 16 others, also have legalized pot for medical purposes. The federal government, however, still classifies cannabis as an illegal substance.
The abandoned pot logo, which was to appear on any recreational-use marijuana or marijuana-infused product sold in the state, featured a pot leaf inside an icon of Washington state.
The intent behind the label was to make any cannabis-containing product easily identifiable, said Liquor Control Board spokesman Brian Smith.
But in a letter last month to the board, a group of drug prevention advocates, including Children's Alliance Deputy Director Jon Gould, wrote that the logo could "reasonably be viewed as branding Washington 'The Marijuana State,' or as Washington proudly promoting marijuana use to the rest of the world."
"A logo like this will undoubtedly end up on bumper stickers and T-shirts," the letter continued.
The board has reserved the right to create a new logo, Smith said, which might feature a marijuana leaf but not coupled with an image of Washington state.
"We got the message about (including the state icon) being promotional," he said.
In another shift, the board proposed to let recreational-use marijuana be grown outdoors, not just indoors or in greenhouses. To pass muster, the outdoor operations would need to be fenced and be equipped with security cameras and alarm systems.
Responding to concerns of fueling a black market, the board also clarified that highly potent marijuana extracts, which have gained in popularity in recent years, may be legally sold so long as they are adulterated with at least trace amounts of an inert substance, such as vegetable oil.
The marijuana law does not explicitly provide for the sale of such concentrates, but board members were persuaded to allow their purchase so as to avoid ceding customers to the black market.
"We do anticipate that the legislature will revise the language in the coming session," Smith said.
Under the new draft rules, consumers could legally buy bulk amounts of pot extracts like marijuana-infused baked goods or drinks - up to a pound in solid form or 4 1/2 pounds as a liquid.
The retail cost of bulk concentrates, which can consist of up to 80 percent THC, the main active ingredient in marijuana, would likely run into the tens of thousands of dollars, based on prices found online for equivalent products sold by medical marijuana dispensaries.
Smith said the prohibitive cost of buying extracts in bulk would probably discourage most consumers from purchasing them in such large quantities.
The board will file its final official rules in August. (Editing by Steve Gorman)