SEATTLE, April 17 Washington state, in a move
that will delay legal sales of recreational marijuana until
early next year, revised its time frame on Wednesday for issuing
licenses to pot growers and processors, an official said.
The delay comes as officials grapple with how to regulate
pot months after Washington and Colorado became the first U.S.
states to legalize the drug for adult recreational use in
landmark twin votes in November.
The move by the two states to allow recreational marijuana
puts them on a potential collision course with the federal
government, which considers marijuana a dangerous, illegal
narcotic and does not allow its use for medical treatment.
Under a new timeline crafted by the Washington state Liquor
Control Board, which is tasked with overseeing the move to
legalize pot, marijuana producers, processors and retailers will
be issued licenses starting Dec. 1, spokesman Brian Smith said.
A prior tentative timeline would have seen producers and
processors obtain licenses late this summer and fall,
respectively. For retailers, it would have been in December.
The new timeline will help pot growers and processors
understand the "entire landscape" of the newly created market,
such as the number of retail stores, levels of competition and
demand, Smith said.
"We think this is a better, more practical process," he
said, adding that the new official timeline is based on input
from public forums and the state Liquor Control Board's
research. "You need to see the whole system."
Smith said it takes growers at least three months to
cultivate a pot plant that can be cut and processed, which under
the new Dec. 1 date for issuing licenses would push the first
legal sales of the drug in Washington state to around the
beginning of March.
In Colorado, lawmakers in recent weeks have discussed
proposed regulations for allowing recreational sales of the drug
in their state. Officials in both states are spending this year
working on rules to create state-sanctioned markets for sale of
the drug at special stores to adults aged 21 and older.
Washington state and Colorado are among the 20 states which,
along with the District of Columbia, allow medical pot.
(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis,
Cynthia Johnston and Phil Berlowitz)