Washington Considers Plan for Hundreds of New Cannabis Retailers

In an effort to meet demand from the soon-to-be defunct medical marijuana industry in Washington, staff members of the state’s cannabis regulatory agency have announced they hope to extend the marketplace with an additional 222 retailer licenses — plans that would increase total licenses statewide by 66 percent and would nearly double the current number of licensed pot shops in Tacoma and Thurston County.

Current regulatory constraints require all medical dispensaries to either secure a cannabis business license or close down by July 1, 2016, The Olympian reports.

Recent estimates figure that 37 percent of all Washington marijuana is currently sold through the unregulated, medical ‘grey market.’ Meanwhile, already-licensed retailers reportedly make up for another 35 percent.

“With the inclusion of medical we might be somewhere around 50 or 60 percent after a year or two, so I think that’s putting a pretty large dent in the black market,” said Rick Garza, head of the state Liquor and Cannabis Board. “But I think we’re always going to have an illicit black market.”

The Board may take a vote on the issue as early as January 6, and newly licensed stores could start opening later that month.

With this move, the number of total marijuana licenses allowed by the state would rise from 334 to 556, and some experts predict that by the July 1 cutoff more than 350 stores could be licensed to provide medical cannabis. There are currently about 190 licensed recreational stores in Washington and roughly 150 businesses are licensed to provide medicinal cannabis.

Photo Credit: Harvey Barrison

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