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Maintaining Washington Marijuana Retail Store Compliance in 2017

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Here you can find a summary of regulation updates coming to the Washington recreational marijuana industry. The most recent update to regulations is the addition of warning symbols on recreational marijuana product packages, which is explained below.


Last Updated: 12/14/2016

Disclaimer: Although these summaries are helpful, please read and understand your state-posted regulations and consult legal counsel as needed.


 

Marijuana Business Location Limits

The State of Washington does limit the number of marijuana retail businesses that can operate within a specific city or county. In addition, cities and counties are also permitted to cap the number of marijuana retail businesses operating within their jurisdictions. When applying for a marijuana retail industry business license, view the maximum number of businesses allowed to determine if there is even an opening for your proposed business.

For example, in Everett, only five marijuana retail stores are permitted. The businesses must be in place by June 1, 2018 for the area to examine the need for additional retail stores. Vancouver has a limit of nine marijuana businesses and Renton limits the number to five.

Local jurisdictions are also permitted to ban marijuana businesses entirely or impose a moratorium to delay marijuana businesses from operating. Only Castle Rock and Eatonville have imposed moratoriums at the present time. Castle Rock will re-examine marijuana retail store operations on March 13, 2017 and Eatonville’s moratorium recently ended on November 23.

Cities completely prohibiting marijuana businesses include:

  • Leavenworth
  • Pomeroy
  • Poulsbo
  • Richland
  • Othello

These locations have not stated whether they will reconsider the opening of marijuana businesses or not.

 

Zoning Restrictions

Washington State does have a general set of zoning restrictions in terms of where marijuana retail businesses can operate. The state also allows local jurisdictions to implement their own zoning restrictions. To maintain marijuana retail store compliance in Washington, all businesses in operation must abide by both the state and local regulations simultaneously.

The general rule in Washington is that a marijuana retail business, growing operation or production facility may not be within 1,000-feet of schools, community centers, daycare centers or churches. Some jurisdictions have reduced that buffer zone to 500-feet or have restricted the operation of marijuana retail businesses to industrial zones only. It is important to view the zoning map and the regulations for the jurisdiction you wish your marijuana retail business to operate in to determine if there is an ample commercial piece of property to operate on.

 

Signage Requirements

Marijuana retail stores in Washington may not have more than two exterior signs. The signs have to be affixed to the structure. The size of the sign cannot exceed 1,600-square-inches.  

Signs may not contain:

  • False information
  • Statements saying marijuana is therapeutic/curative
  • Promotions of excess use
  • No imagery of children, toys, characters, cartoons or anything recognized by a child as being attractive or appealing
  • No imagery of children using marijuana

Signs to promote your Washington marijuana retail store may not be placed on any public transportation vehicle or public transit shelter. Promotional materials, in general, are prohibited. This includes giveaways, discounts, coupons and giving out branded materials for free.

Advertising must contain these warnings:

  • This product has intoxicating effects and may be habit forming
  • Marijuana can impair concentration, coordination, and judgment. Do not operate a vehicle or machinery under the influence of this drug
  • There may be health risks associated with consumption of this product
  • For use only by adults twenty-one and older. Keep out of the reach of children

Any signage not meeting the state’s requirements may be requested to be removed, adapted or destroyed. Failure to meet signage requirements can result in a loss of business license or compliance infraction.

 

Marijuana in the Workplace

Employers do not have to provide any type of leeway or overlook marijuana found in drug screenings. Employers can choose to adopt a zero tolerance policy or to stop testing for marijuana; it is under their own discretion. Employees who use marijuana recreationally are not protected under any Washington State laws and can be terminated if a drug screening detects marijuana.

 

Wastewater Regulations

Disposal of wastewater obtained from producing or processing marijuana and marijuana products must be done in a safe manner. Solid and liquid waste not containing fertilizers or pesticides is considered to be non-dangerous, but the waste must also be deemed as unusable.  Specific waste containers should be used for plant matter and remnants of marijuana plant waste, such as roots and stems. Unusable waste may be mixed with soil or other ground/earth materials, creating compost within the grounds. The compost cannot be over 50-percent marijuana waste.

If your business is designating waste as unusable, it must be sent to the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board with at least a 72-hour notice of disposal in the state’s traceability system.

 

Not for Kids Warning Symbol

Washington marijuana retail store owners have a new regulation to take notice of. The Not For Kids Warning Symbol must be placed on marijuana edible products beginning on February 14, 2017. Now, the benefit here is that marijuana retail store owners won’t have to make these labels themselves; they are already available on the Washington Poison Control website.

The symbol must be at least 0.75-inches high by 0.5-inches wide. The symbols cannot cover required labeling or required information on the packages. It cannot be altered from its original state, except to resize for use. The color of the symbol may not be altered, other than adding a black border to ensure that the symbol is seen.

 

Required Licensing

All marijuana retail businesses within the State of Washington must obtain a business license from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board. In cities like Seattle, both a Seattle marijuana business license and Seattle business license tax certificate must also be obtained. Facilities producing or processing marijuana must obtain an additional air quality permit, which can be obtained by applying to the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.

Failure to obtain all of the required licensing for your marijuana business could result in a Washington marijuana retail store compliance infraction and/or loss of business license.

 

Vendor/Producer Sponsored Parties Prohibited

Vendors and producers of marijuana retail products may not sponsor or give items away at parties. Incentive programs are also prohibited, as is negotiating a discount for a specific producer’s product. This means that producers cannot offer free items, cash or any other type of gift to any retail store owner for selling their products. Processors are not permitted to promote their products on the property of a marijuana retail business either.

 

No Out-of-State Financial Interest

Anyone living outside the State of Washington is prohibited from financing any part or donating to a marijuana retail business. The state allows only for in-state financiers. Those found in violation of this regulation by receiving funding from out-of-state parties can lose their business license or be found in violation of Washington marijuana retail business compliance.

 

Tipping is Permitted

When the Washington recreational marijuana market started, tipping budtenders was prohibited. This law was changed to allow for tipping budtenders. Budtenders must report tips as wages, just as others earning tips do. The marijuana retail store may not say that tipping is required or solicit for tips. Tips cannot be used as part of a transaction, such as adding onto the price of a sale to avoid paying taxes on that sale.

 

Closing Thoughts

There are aids available to help Washington marijuana retail stores stay compliant, including a recently adopted rules publication. Washington marijuana retail store owners should consider using a software program to help monitor compliance status and reduce time in operations and daily business practices. An attorney working in the marijuana industry should also be easily accessible to help marijuana retail store owners in Washington understand legislation as it is written.

 

Author

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