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New timeline signals potential delay in legal marijuana sales

A newly released timeline could mean legally grown pot won't be available in Washington state until next spring. (AP image)

Legal marijuana sales in Washington state could be delayed until spring of next year after the Liquor Control Board announced Wednesday the timeline for pot licenses for growers and sellers.

The Board had been expected to issue growing licenses this summer and processor licenses this fall. But now officials confirm all licenses will be issued beginning Dec. 1, spokesman Brian Smith told KIRO Radio.

“What’s going on here is a change in some of the original elements in there to be more practical,” he said of the modifications made to the original draft regulations issued after voters approved the measure legalizing marijuana last November. “We think that many in the industry will find it easier and it will work better for them.”

According to Smith, issuing all the licenses at once will give growers a better understanding of the business climate and potential demand.

“For example, if you want to grow, how much competition will you have? How many retailers will there be? You’ll be able to get a sense of that right from the beginning,” he said.

But that means growers likely won’t be able to start growing their regulated crops until December, delaying the availability of legal pot for several months after that, Smith said.

Washington joined Colorado last fall in becoming the first states to legalize recreational marijuana for adults over 21, and to allow the sale of taxed pot at state-licensed stores. Washington’s Liquor Control Board has been devising rules for the industry, covering topics such as how the plants will be grown, how marijuana products will be tested for strength and quality, and how many retail stores will be allowed.

The board will begin vetting draft rules for all license types with stakeholders in mid-May. The rules are expected to become effective in August, and the board will begin accepting applications for growing, processing and retailing licenses in September.

Still, Smith wouldn’t entirely rule out the possibility of buying pot before Christmas. He said there might be ways for retailers to sell marijuana grown before it was officially licensed. But he indicated any work-arounds would likely have to be run by the state attorney general and Justice Department before they’re given the green light.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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