Nearly two years after Washington voters approved "legalization" of marijuana, the first licenses for legal sale of recreational marijuana are being issued Monday.
The New York Times reports that a small number of retail shop owners received an electronic copy of a license to sell pot. It doesn't have to be for medicinal purposes. It can be bought for plain old fun, recreational use.
But Washington has experienced problems hashing out the details of its new pot program. Eighteen months ago, Washington's legalization effort passed with strong support. Voters saw a special chance to build the perfect pot machine from scratch, unlike Colorado, which had an existing medical marijuana regime.
It didn't quite turn out that way. The state faces a huge backlog for licenses. There are only 18 license reviewers sifting through thousands of applications. The first approvals for growers didn't go out until March, which left at most two growing cycles to stock the shelves.
The agency in charge is the Washington State Liquor Control Board, which has been drafting rules and reviewing license applications. The board has conceded the chaos of the recent past, attributing delays to an unexpectedly large number of license applicants (thousands instead of hundreds), many of them apparently dazed, confused, or otherwise befogged by pot's new bureaucracy.
On Monday, with the emailed notifications in hand, pot shops immediately worked to place their orders with some of the state's first licensed growers. As soon as the orders were received, via state-approved software for tracking the bar-coded pot, the growers could place the product in a required 24-hour "quarantine" before shipping it early Tuesday morning.
Voters in Washington and Colorado both approved state "legalization" of marijuana. Pot possession remains strictly illegal under federal law. Though the Justice Department has given states broad leeway to let cannabis grow and be sold in those states, as long as it's strictly regulated.