State regulators say they need extra time to rewrite rules for the state's new marijuana businesses to include limits on production of the drug.
The changes would trigger a delay in the rulemaking process, as the state Liquor Control Board must collect more public input.
That means it could be mid-March before growers, processors and sellers have their state licenses in hand, and perhaps May by the time pot can be bought at stores.
The liquor board, which is overseeing implementation of voter-passed Initiative 502 that legalized the recreational use of marijuana, will consider the new timetable Wednesday and the proposed rules Sept. 4.
The proposal will include a statewide production limit -- in the ballpark of 40 metric tons for the first year, liquor board Deputy Director Randy Simmons said -- and individual limits on how much growers, processors and retail stores can have on-hand. Those are still being worked out, Simmons said.
I-502 calls for some limits but the board had originally planned to set them later, after receiving business plans from license applicants. But businesses told the board it should be the other way around: They needed to know what would be allowed before writing their plans.
"The comments we were getting back," Simmons said, "was, 'I don't know how to write a business plan because I don't know what the marketplace looks like that you're creating.'"
While the board is making changes Sept. 4, Simmons said it would also spell out the number of retail stores allowed in each county and in areas within counties. Previously, the plan had been to do those in separate rules.
Both the production limits and the store caps will be based in part on a state consultant's calculation that Washington consumes about 165 metric tons of marijuana per year.
Many of those users will continue to go to the marijuana market or the black market, consultants say. The board is estimating I-502 stores will be able to capture about 25 percent of the market, or about 40 metric tons, in their first year.