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Washington became one of the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational use in 2012. But there are a lot of challenges ahead: the state must set up a licensing system for marijuana growers and sellers, the federal government may mount a challenge, the need to set a new limit on amount of marijuana in the bloodstream for safe driving. And medical marijuana is still in the picture.Over the next several months we will be exploring the issue and tracking the impact of I-502.

Will Seattle's New Marijuana Rules Delay Access To Pot?

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

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The Seattle City Council attempted to clarify on Monday how pot could be distributed within the city, but how consumers will be able to buy marijuana remains hazy.

Gov. Jay Inslee told The Record’s Ross Reynolds that many people are still buying marijuana through medical channels – even though they don’t need it. He called the current medical marijuana system the “Wild West.”

“It’s hardly any secret that there’s a very, very large number of people using that system that is not consistent with their medical needs,” Inslee said. “We now have legal marijuana in our state; people should use it legally but not abuse the medical system.”

But Seattle’s new rules may make it difficult for pot entrepreneurs to grow, said John Davis, founder and CEO of Northwest Patient Resource Center and chair of the board of directors for Hempfest. He spoke with The Record’s David Hyde.

The council unanimously agreed that pot growers would have to be licensed by the state by Jan. 1, 2015 – a tricky proposition as the state hasn’t established a licensing system. Davis accused the council of “punting” the issue to a legislature that may not ultimately require licensing.

The council also drew boundaries for where pot facilities can operate and to limit the size of growing operations. Washington voters approved legalization of marijuana sales in November.

Councilmember Nick Licata was more optimistic. He told The Record that marijuana will be available for sale likely by spring or summer of 2015, to give the plants time to grow. Pot will likely be as accessible as liquor when it was run by the state, he said.

Still, Licata advised restrained enthusiasm. “We are talking about massive social change here,” he said. “The federal government is watching this operation very closely.”

Those who believe that pot will be legal without a federal government crackdown could be shocked, Licata said.

“If, for instance, there’s a new president of the US and they decide on a different drug policy, they could literally shut down the operation in Washington state,” he said.

President Barack Obama has tepidly recognized legalized marijuana in Washington and Colorado but has made it clear that the federal government will intervene if marijuana from these states crosses state lines.

“That’s the reason why we have to be very cautious now – and this is my advice to people in the medical marijuana industry -- we cannot be so bold as to assume that from now on the world has changed,” Licata said. “We are still on the cutting edge, and there are still many people out there who would not want to see any marijuana legalized.”

Produced for the Web by Isolde Raftery and Jason Pagano.

Year started with KUOW: 2004