The Washington State Liquor Control Board announced today that it will scale back how much marijuana it will allow pot farmers to grow in the state. The board's initial cap on the amount of total farm space was 2 million square feet, but the first 1,500 applications to grow marijuana in the state (just part of the 2,858 producer license applications filed) would have totaled 35 million square feet.
In light of federal guidelines on what the state should do to avoid federal intervention, including ensuring that marijuana doesn't leak over state borders, the board takes seriously the task of preventing an excess of pot. In hopes of addressing the problem, the board will now grant only one producer license per applicant, even to those who've applied for multiple licenses (previously, the board planned to allow three per qualifying applicant). It will also reduce the amount of marijuana each tier of processing license can grow to 70 percent of the original amount. For example, the largest farms will now be allowed to grow 21,000 square feet rather than the original 30,000.
Some applicants are likely to be surprised by the change, especially those who've already bought space to grow more marijuana they'll now be allowed. (Hopeful entrepreneurs now "feel the rug is pulled out from them," one attorney told the Seattle Times.) But board members say the changes were better than its other options, like only approving a small number of applicants or allowing more marijuana to be grown. The limits could also be changed again in the future, if more marijuana is needed to meet demand.
“We believe this is the most fair and equitable way to get the market up and running,” Board Chair Sharon Foster said in a statement.
Also in today's announcement was news that the board will grant licenses to qualifying applicants, even if the city or county in which they plan to open has a ban on marijuana businesses. The state attorney general recently said he believes local governments can implement such bans, but the board has consistently put the burden of understanding local rules on the applicant. (Similarly, the group has said it will issue licenses to marijuana stores, even if they plan to open in areas that cities have zoned to allow no pot shops.)
The board will begin issuing producer licenses next month and expects stores will be licensed and open with product to sell by the summer.