Gold Dome, Jacob Sullum, Politics

How recreational pot rules compare in Colorado and Washington

On July 3, the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) unveiled its proposed rules for the state-licensed pot stores authorized by I-502, the marijuana legalization initiative approved by voters last November. The regulations, which were to a large extent dictated by I-502, are similar in some ways to the regulations published recently by the Colorado Department of Revenue. Both states, for example, plan to prohibit sales to anyone younger than 21, ban Internet sales, limit transactions to one ounce at a time, ban on-site consumption, require warning labels, and limit marijuana edibles to 10 servings and 100 milligrams of THC per package. But although I-502 was more detailed and prescriptive than Amendment 64, Colorado’s marijuana legalization initiative, Washington’s rules are looser in several ways:

icon_blog_noteResidence requirement. Growers and retailers must have lived in Washington for at least three months prior to seeking a license. Since the WSLCB plans to accept applications for 30 days beginning on September 14, anyone who has lived in Washington since mid-June or earlier will be eligible. By contrast, Colorado’s licenses are limited to people who have lived in the state for at least two years, meaning entrepreneurs attracted to Colorado by marijuana legalization are not welcome.

Fees. Washington regulators intend to charge $1,250 in license and application fees, compared to $4,250 in Colorado for current medical marijuana centers and $19,000 for newcomers. Then again, Washington is levying much heavier taxes on marijuana: 25 percent at each of three levels, compared to an excise tax of 15 percent and a special sales tax of 10 percent in Colorado (subject to approval by voters this fall).

Vertical integration. Unlike in Colorado, where retailers until October 2014 will be required to grow 70 percent of the marijuana they sell, in Washington regulators will issue separate licenses for producers, processors, and retailers. In a sense this mandatory separation of functions is just as strict as mandatory integration, but it is likely to be less burdensome.

Grow locations. Washington will allow outdoor growing operations, while Colorado will require that they remain inside.

Local veto. The WSLCB will consider objections from local governments in deciding whether to grant a license, but unlike in Colorado municipalities do not have the authority to stop pot stores from opening within their borders.

Timing. Washington plans to start issuing producer, processor, and retailer licenses in December, while Colorado will not let pot stores open until January.

One significant way in which Washington’s regulatory system is stricter: Home cultivation is not permitted. In Colorado, by contrast, you can grow up to six plants for personal consumption and to share with others (up to an ounce at a time, “without remuneration”).

Advertising is another area where Washington may end up with stricter rules. It plans to ban marijuana ads on public property, including mass transit, and within 1,000 feet of a school, a playground, a recreation center, a child care center, a public park, a library, or a game arcade. Washington’s rules also prohibit advertising that depicts children or “is designed in any manner that would be especially appealing to children or other persons under twenty-one years of age.” Each pot store will be limited to one plain-vanilla sign, no bigger than 1,600 square inches, bearing the name of the business.

Colorado regulators have not written advertising rules yet, although the legislature has instructed them to ban “mass-market campaigns that have a high likelihood of reaching minors.”

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a nationally syndicated columnist.  This article was originally published at


Our unofficial motto at Complete Colorado is “Always free, never fake, ” but annoyingly enough, our reporters, columnists and staff all want to be paid in actual US dollars rather than our preferred currency of pats on the back and a muttered kind word. Fact is that there’s an entire staff working every day to bring you the most timely and relevant political news (updated twice daily) from around the state on Complete’s main page aggregator, as well as top-notch original reporting and commentary on Page Two.

CLICK HERE TO LADLE A LITTLE GRAVY ON THE CREW AT COMPLETE COLORADO. You’ll be giving to the Independence Institute, the not-for-profit publisher of Complete Colorado, which makes your donation tax deductible. But rest assured that your giving will go specifically to the Complete Colorado news operation. Thanks for being a Complete Colorado reader, keep coming back.

Comments are closed.