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Legal Pot Rules Differ Between Washington, Colorado

Background checks, security requirements, advertising bans are common rules for both states' industries


NewLettersWashington’s Liquor Control Board announced today the regulations that will dictate production, purchasing, and taxation on legal marijuana, following closely on the heels of Colorado, who made a similar announcement last month. Between the two states, there are some significant differences.

For starters, Washington limits total production in the state at 80 metric tons. Right now, Colorado voters are considering whether or not to implement a production limit. Washington does not allow home-growing, while Colorado allows up to six plants at home. Colorado allows stores to sell both medicinal and recreational marijuana, while Washington forbids recreational stores from serving as dispensaries.

Some of the other differences are smaller, matters of degrees rather than principles. Both states charge fees to start marijuana businesses. In Washington, that fee is $250 per application, plus a $1,000 annual renewal cost. Colorado has fees that range from $2,750 to $14,000. Washington has separate licenses for growing, selling, and processing marijuana, and one person cannot hold all three licenses. In Colorado, licenses are needed for growing, selling, and making edible pot products, but a person can apply for all three licenses for a business. Washington limits people to three of any of those marijuana licenses, while there is no limit in Colorado.

And each state has careful rules in place to ensure licenses — and marijuana — stay in the right hands. A seed-to-sale tracking system is in place in both states to keep product from winding up on the black market. Background checks are necessary for people looking to go into the marijuana business.  Investors and owners of marijuana licenses must live in Colorado or Washington. Security system are required for marijuana businesses. All items must be in childproof packaging, with labels that clearly describe the product’s potency and dangers of usage. Advertising aimed at minors is banned.

Probably the biggest takeaway is how generally mundane these rules are, and how little protest there has been around the roll-out. What remains to be seen is how much business will come out of the newly legal pot industry in both states.

The opinions contained in this column are solely those of the writer.

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