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Washington state issues rules for marijuana growers, businesses

Washington state moved one step closer Wednesday to legitimizing the recreational marijuana market.

The State Liquor Control Board approved the filing of proposed rules that will oversee how potential sellers of the once-illicit drug will produce, process and sell marijuana.

The board, the governing body that now oversees the buying and selling of the drug, will hold public hearings on its proposals in early August. State officials expect the rules to be adopted Aug. 14 and effective Sept. 16.

When voters approved an initiative in November decriminalizing the drug — which remains illegal on the federal level — it opened up a federalist debate on the legitimacy of the state law.

Gov. Jay Inslee said he had a duty to the citizens of Washington to enforce the law.

“I was not supportive of the initiative,” Inslee said at a press conference in November, but he added: “I will be working in very rational ways to convince the [Obama] administration that this is in the best interest not only of our state, but of the country.”

Since then, the governor has met with Attorney General Eric Holder and other Obama administration officials with some success.

“We’ve got bigger fish to fry,” the president said in December about going after pot users in Washington and Colorado, which also legalized the drug in November.

In Washington, state regulators have vowed to keep marijuana out of the wrong hands. On July 3, the State Liquor Control Board outlined a 42-page rulebook on public and consumer safety in the new market.

“Public safety is our top priority,” said Board Chairwoman Sharon Foster. “These rules fulfill the public expectation of creating a tightly-regulated and controlled system while providing reasonable access to participation in the market.”

The board will require growers of marijuana to meet “strictly controlled on-site security requirements,” packaging and labeling standards, including providing child-resistant packaging, and other regulations involving the transportation and licensing of the drug.

The state expects to begin issuing producer, processor and retailer licenses in December and January.

Tentative locations for the public hearings in Olympia, the Seattle-area, Ellensburg and Spokane — and the proposed rules — can be found at www.liq.wa.gov.

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