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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.

Revised Pot Rules Allow 334 Retail Stores In Washington

Flickr Photo/prensa4 (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Washington could have as many as 334 marijuana retail stores statewide. That’s the cap proposed on Wednesday by the state’s Liquor Control Board.

Rural Ferry County in northeast Washington would only be allowed one pot retailer. But populous King County could have 61, including 21 stores in the city of Seattle. No so-called potrepreneur could operate more than three stores. Liquor Board member Chris Marr says that rule is designed to keep monopolies at bay. “I think avoids the type of market dominated by a few large players which I think the input we received, people wanted to avoid which could drive up prices and encourage the type of aggressive marketing that I believe we want to move away from.”

Realistically, the Board predicts the first pot stores will open next June. Other new rules would cap marijuana production in Washington at two million square feet – or about half the size of Boeing’s Everett factory. The total amount of marijuana that could be produced annually would be limited to 40 metric tons.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."