An example of what marijuana packaging might look like once retail pot shops open in Washington, expected to occur late this year or early 2014.
What can we expect walking into a pot shop for the first time?
On May 16 the Washington State Liquor Control Board released their initial draft of rules for I-502 implementation, the framework for legalization of recreational marijuana. Much of the information is reserved for those interested in becoming part of the system – from growing to processing to retailing, but the rules also give end-users an idea of what they might see upon walking into a retail marijuana shop for the first time (which is expected to happen around the turn into 2014.)
From seed to purchase, there is a sea of regulations on record keeping, labeling, security and precise guidelines on the growth, quality testing, processing and transport of marijuana before it reaches a retail outlet. For those interested in reading about the system in depth, they are available online at https://lcb.box.com/initial-draft-rules. A good summary is also available from Seattle Times reporter Bob Young, found here.
The WSLCB is taking recommendations on the draft rules until June 10 and is expected to release finalized rules later that month.
Brian Smith with the WSLCB clarified that the rules for shops pertain to retail only operations, i.e. there is nothing in the language providing a pathway for existing medical marijuana facilities to operate as a retail outlet for the general 21-and-over public as well. Smith said the Washington Legislature will be addressing whether medical/retail outlets can coexist in one brick and mortar location, although a definitive timeline is unknown.
Signs, signs, everywhere are signs (and cameras)
Upon walking up to your first retail pot shop, you’ll probably notice three things: a store sign, regulatory signs and cameras.
In the draft, retail signage is limited to a single sign of limited size (1600 square inches), cannot be “false or misleading … promote over consumption … represent the use of marijuana (as having) curative or therapeutic effects ... depict a child or under 21 person consuming …” or have any objects that might appeal to children, like toys or cartoony character.
Retail shops, along with growing and processing facilities are required to have alarm systems active on all windows and doors, and security cameras keeping an eye on all cash registers along with indoor and outdoor vantage points of all doors. Cameras need to record 24-hours a day and licensees are required to keep a record of the past 45 days.
You’ll see signs stating, “Persons under twenty-one years of age not permitted on these premises” and another stating it is prohibited to open a package or marijuana or marijuana-infused product in public. While the Seattle Police Department is currently in a “just a warning” phase for those consuming marijuana in public, it’s expected there will eventually be legal framework to get a misdemeanor similar to public consumption of alcohol.
Product information and warnings galore
Upon walking inside, available to you will be an array of dried, smokeable marijuana and marijuana-infused foods and liquids. At this time, the WSLCB rules will not allow store to sell marijuana concentrates, items like hash and hash oil, that pack a far more potent punch than standard “buds” (aka, the flower of a marijuana plant that people smoke).
All products need to be stored behind a counter “to ensure a customer does not have direct access …,” so there won’t be any direct perusing of the sativa section or “Cleanup on aisle indica” intercom chatter.
Every product needs to be packaged inside non-toxic materials that protect it from contamination, and every retail customer has the right to request the name of the accredited third party testing lab and results of their quality assurance testing for any given product..
Nothing can be labeled organic unless the Washington State Department of Agriculture deems it as such.
Smokeable marijuana will be required to have a slew of warnings attached, such as “Warning: Smoking may be hazardous to your health,” “Should not be used by women that are pregnant or breastfeeding,” and “For use only by adults 21 and older. Keep out of the reach of children."
Also required in the labeling is full disclosure of any pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, etc. used to create that particular plant you are considering for purchase.
Marijuana-infused products are required to have labeling making it abundantly clear this cookie or that brownie is not of your Betty Crocker box mix variety, including “This product is infused with marijuana or active compounds of marijuana.” Any solvents or chemicals used in the creation of those products need to be listed as well, and they will have allergen information, recommended serving size, list of all ingredients beyond cannabis and a “best by” date.
On top of all that, each container or package needs to identify the grower, processer and seller, a lot number and date of harvest, net weight, and the concentration of all chemical components found in the product, from the well-known psychoactive THC to lesser known components.
Products need to have the Washington State icon (a pot leaf centered inside an outline of the state) and two final warnings: “May be habit forming” and “This product is unlawful outside of Washington State.”
While I-502 allows out-of-staters over 21 to purchase marijuana, they are not legally allowed to take it home with them.
After processing all that information, it will finally be time to make your decision and purchase. While retailers are required to keep extensive records of the ebb and flow of product into and out of their shop and any transactions made, they are not required to track anything about the end-user/retail purchaser.
In a single purchase, customers can walk out with up to one ounce of useable (smokeable) marijuana, 16 ounces of marijuana-infused products (generally food) in solid form, and 72 ounces of marijuana-infused liquids.
While we don’t know yet where retail shops will be allowed (WSLCB has only said they will determine the number of allowable shops per county, and a lottery will pick those lucky enough to apply for a license) in King County, but the general guidelines are they cannot be within 1000 feet (in a straight line) from an elementary or secondary school, playground, recreation center, child care center, public park, public transit center, library or any all-ages game arcade.
Recommendations on the rules can be sent to the following by June 10:
Email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Liquor Control Board
P.O. Box 43080
Olympia, WA 98504-3080