Make sure you’ve got some money. Cozy up to your local government officials. And find a lawyer.
Those are a few suggestions from the state Liquor Control Board for people who want to get into the marijuana business in Washington.
The board won’t begin accepting applications for marijuana business licenses until Sept. 14, but these tips will help people be prepared when the 30-day application window opens.
We’ve summarized the boards suggestions below. All things potential entrepreneurs could (or should) start doing now.
Here you go, in classic Top 10 style:
10. Get informed. The recreational marijuana industry will be governed by complex rules and laws. The board suggests reading the legal summaries provide on the I-502 section of the board’s website, along with the initial draft rules issued May 16. Check out the handy section on frequently asked questions.
9. Lawyer up. Consider consulting with an attorney or business consultant on the potential risks and rewards of getting in on this industry. While marijuana is legal in Washington, it’s still illegal under federal law – a conflict that has not yet been resolved.
8. Check your bank balance. The language of I-502, the initiative that legalized marijuana in the state, and the accompanying Liquor Board rules will require compliance that could come at a significant cost. Consider whether you have the financial capital to meet the start-up and operating costs associated with the regulations. Complicating matters, financial institutions won’t lend money to marijuana-related businesses because the institutions are federally regulated and marijuana remains illegal under federal law.
7. Know your criminal record. In the initial draft rules, the board has made allowances for two misdemeanor convictions for marijuana possession. However, an extensive or violent criminal history will likely prevent you from getting a license. Talk to any potential partners about their own criminal backgrounds before going into business with them.
6. Get local. Living here is key. You, your partners and financial backers have to live in Washington for three months before applying for a license.. Confused? Refer to the initial draft rules, which explain the residency requirements and the necessary proof for application. To apply in mid-September, you would need to have started living in Washington state by mid-June.
5. Get friendly with your local officials. Cities and counties are forming their own rules related to the marijuana industry, including license requirements and zoning restrictions for new businesses. Check with local governments to determine their specific regulations.
4. Think like a farmer. Depending on your business, check out what environmental or special use permits are required. As the board points out: “Growing marijuana is agriculture which typically has specific requirements for production, wastewater, etc. It is the same thing with processing. Depending on your process methods there may be associated state or local regulations that govern them.”
3. Know your location. You need to find a location to do business that doesn’t violate I-502 before you can to apply for your license. The law specifically prohibits locations of any marijuana business within 1,000 feet of an elementary or secondary school, playground, recreation center or facility, child care center, public park, public transit center, library, or arcade that is not restricted to persons at least age 21. Local governments may have their own rules applying to location, so double-check those too.
2. Talk to your landlord. Don’t surprise your landlord with news that he’ll be hosting a marijuana business. Under the initial draft rules, the landlord or property owner is required to sign a statement acknowledging he or she “is aware that the property being leased will be used for production, processing, or retailing marijuana.”
1. Know how to apply and get licensed. You will need a business license from the Washington State Department of Revenue to get started. Once you have that, you’ll need to get an endorsement on the license to be a marijuana producer, processor or retailer. It costs $250 per marijuana license endorsement, and payment is due when you apply. You may have to pay additional local licensing fees.
With only a 30-day application window for marijuana licenses, the Liquor Board is accepting only hard-copy license applications. In other words, online applications are not an option. You can get started at any Washington State Department of Revenue office.
After you apply, the board will take you through the licensing process and ultimately decide whether to approve or deny your application.
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