State rules would allow six pot stores in Walla Walla, Columbia and Garfield counties

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The state would license 334 pot stores under revised state rules for a recreational marijuana system.

Locally, Walla Walla County would have four outlets, with two in the city of Walla Walla. Columbia and Garfield counties each would have one outlet.

Total pot production would be capped at 40 metric tons next year in rules approved Wednesday by the state Liquor Control Board.

The cap is intended to meet anticipated consumer demand that would roughly equal 25 percent of the total state market for legal recreational, medical and illicit-market marijuana.

State officials expect recreational weed to gain market share over time, as they modify the system to better compete on price, quality and convenience with the medical and illicit markets.

The production cap helped determine the number of stores and limits on the amount of pot that growers could produce. Under the revised rules, growing facilities could be up to 30,000 square feet, or almost three-quarters of an acre.

In a stab at keeping the industry from concentrating in the hands of a few big players, the rules say no entity could hold more than three licenses in each of the producer, processor and retail categories.

Alison Holcomb, chief author of the state’s recreational-pot law, praised the revised rules as thoughtful and responsive.

“Other states and nations are already reviewing Washington state’s work for guidance in shaping new, and sound, marijuana policies in their communities,” said Holcomb, who has visited Uruguay to advise officials there on legalization.

But the rules were met by some criticism. They would favor indoor growing, and its large carbon footprint, over more environmentally beneficial sun-grown pot, according to some.

After holding public hearings next month, the board is expected to formally adopt the rules, which could be effective as early as mid-November. Following background checks and other state scrutiny, licenses would be issued, crops grown and stores open by June, if not sooner.

The revised rules come less than a week after the federal Department of Justice indicated it would let Colorado and Washington proceed with tightly regulated legal pot markets, as long as they adhered to certain priorities, such as keeping their weed from leaking into other states, or into the hands of minors.

The draft rules already mirrored the federal government’s priorities and were not changed by last week’s news out of Washington, D.C.

“I think we all breathed a sigh of relief,” said board member Chris Marr about how closely aligned the state rules and federal priorities appear to be.

Retail stores would be allocated by population and accessibility, in a system similar to the one used for defunct state liquor stores. That system sought to have stores within a 15-minute drive for 95 percent of the population.

After feedback from entrepreneurs and consumers, the Liquor Control Board relaxed some draft proposals in hopes of encouraging stores in dense urban neighborhoods such as Seattle’s Capitol Hill. The city would have at least 21 stores, and 61 in King County,

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