Washington state's cap on retail cannabis stores will jump next year from 334 to 556, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Control Board announced Wednesday. This increase follows changes to the state’s medical marijuana system contained in the Medical Cannabis Patient Protection Act and adopted earlier this year.
The bill was designed to reconcile Washington’s largely unregulated medical marijuana program with the tightly controlled recreational industry in an effort to find a happy medium between patient rights as well as safety and regulatory measures. However, the law has been controversial, especially among dispensaries that faced closure under the new criteria. Dispensaries that did not qualify were forced to close until they could comply with the minimum standards of the law.
Per the latest announcement, the Washington State Cannabis and Liquor Control Board will license applicants using a priority-based system:
Priority 1: Dispensaries that opened prior to Jan. 1, 2013, applied for a recreational license prior to July 1, 2014, maintained a state or local business license and paid state or local business taxes.
Priority 2: Applicants who operated a collective or dispensary prior to Jan. 1, 2013, maintained a state and local business license, and show a history of paying state taxes and fees.
Priority 3: Applicants who do not meet criteria under Priorities 1 or 2.
After determining that the Liquor and Cannabis Control Board would need to expand the number of retail licenses to incorporate medical dispensaries, the board began accepting new applicants on Oct. 12, 2015. The agency has since received 1,194 applications.
There are 39 applicants that fit the criteria under Priority 1 and 42 applicants categorized under Priority 2.
The number of licenses will be distributed to retail locations in the most populous cities in the state in order to accommodate the medical needs of qualifying patients and designated providers, as determined by county medical marijuana sales.