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Washington May Delay New Marijuana Sales Rules

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File photo of marijuana in a jar. (Photo by RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/GettyImages)

File photo of marijuana in a jar. (Photo by RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/GettyImages)

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SEATTLE (AP) — State officials said Tuesday they want to delay for a few months final rules for selling, growing and processing recreational marijuana in Washington state, after hundreds of people attended public meetings around the state to air their thoughts on the proposed rules.

The Washington state Liquor Control Board was scheduled to adopt the final rules at its meeting on Wednesday, but agency staff recommended the board delay the process until the rules can be revised with those public comments in mind.

The staff wants to present proposed new rules to consider on Sept. 4.

The rules are part of the process for implementing Initiative 502, which was approved by voters in November to legalize marijuana for adults. The law set a Dec. 1 deadline for having rules in place.

The new schedule calls for at least one more public hearing, adoption of the rules on Oct. 16 and an effective date of Nov. 16, which is still well ahead of that deadline. The date to begin license applications to grow, distribute or sell marijuana moves from Sept. 16 to Nov. 18.

Under the law, the Liquor Control Board will regulate the production, distribution and sale of recreational marijuana in stores. The first pot stores could be open next year.

Five hearings were held last week in Seattle, Everett, Olympia, Spokane and Ellensburg to gather public input on the proposed rules, and hundreds of people showed up to offer comment. The state also heard about the proposed rules from municipalities, law enforcement, other government agencies and people who want to be involved in the new industry through the mail, on the phone, online and via email.

“The process is working exactly as it should,” Liquor Control Board director Rick Garza said in a statement. “Our stakeholders are not telling us to hurry up. In fact they are asking us to consider their comments for the proposed rules.”

The comments included requests for clarification on parts of the rules that would limit the amount of marijuana produced, establish the number of pot stores and govern their locations, and regulate how much marijuana those with licenses can have on hand.

State law requires refiling of draft rules when there are substantial changes. Incorporating the public’s comments would require some substantial changes or clarifications, board spokesman Mikhail Carpenter said.

“A lot of people wanted to know those answers or had strong opinions,” he said. “The board heard what the public was saying.”

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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