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Originally published Tuesday, August 13, 2013 at 7:43 PM

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Board seeks additional time in crafting rules for legal pot

State officials want to delay final rules for recreational pot, pushing back the licensing of marijuana merchants for two months. Pot entrepreneurs and advocates say it’s better to be careful than quick in rule-making.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The Washington state Liquor Control Board staff is recommending that rules for a legal recreational-pot system be postponed while it takes additional time to consider public feedback.

Final rules were scheduled to be issued Wednesday by the agency, after approval by the three appointed board members. Agency spokesman Brian Smith said board members have indicated they’re agreeable to the delay.

“What we’re hearing is that no one is telling us to hurry up,” Smith said of public feedback.

The delay would still allow the board to meet its required deadline of having rules in place by Dec. 1. It would push back licensing of new pot merchants by about two months.

Pot entrepreneur John Davis said he and others want more clarity in the rules for retail-store locations, especially around how to measure the 1,000-foot buffer between pot stores and venues, such as parks, frequented by youth. “It’s better to be good than quick,” Davis said of the delay.

Philip Dawdy, representing the Washington Cannabis Association, agreed, noting that the scarcity of potential store locations in Seattle and Tacoma was likely a concern for the legal system, which aims to undercut the black market and collect millions in tax revenues from state-sanctioned pot. “Ultimately, I think we’ll end up with a better-quality product,” Dawdy said.

Alison Holcomb, primary author of the law, said the liquor board’s careful approach to rules is consistent with its actions to date.

Clarifying definitions, identifying the number and locations of retail stores, and limiting how much pot a licensee can have — called for by the new law — are some of the main revisions the board is looking at, Smith said.

Holcomb, criminal-justice director for the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) of Washington, has urged the board to set caps that create different tiers — small, medium and large — for licensees. Holcomb says such caps would allow smaller operations.

Her concern is that without such caps, economic forces would tend to favor large operations. Big marijuana companies would have the financial and political and marketing muscle to dilute rules and target young customers, Holcomb and others contend.

The state agency issued proposed rules July 3. It then took written public comments and held hearings last week around the state.

The revised schedule calls for the staff to come back to the board Sept. 4 with a new round of rules. If accepted, the board will begin a six-week period of collecting more public input.

It would then vote to adopt the revised rules on Oct. 16 and they would become effective Nov. 16. The board would take license applications for 30 days, starting Nov. 18.

Bob Young: 206-464-2174 or byoung@seattletimes.com

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