Some six months after retailers in Colorado begun legally selling cannabis to recreational users, Washington State is set to follow suit today as the first retail licences are issued and shops begin to operate.

However, reports coming out of Washington suggest that what should be a day of jubilant celebration as the shackles of prohibition are finally shed, is actually turning out to be something of an anti-climax:

Already there are concerns that demand will be much, much higher than supply and there is still a lot of uncertainty in the state as the moment of truth approaches.  Central to this issue is the fact that Washington state only issued the growing licences in March this year, leaving at best, two complete growing cycles to stock up stores ready for opening day. 

Would-be retailers who have invested huge sums of money in order to ready their businesses to meet demand have been left hanging as the date of legal recreational sales has been repeatedly delayed.  The state, perhaps naively, did not anticipate the thousands of retail licence applications that it received – Just eighteen staff, sourced from Washington State Liquor Control Board were tasked with assessing the thousands of applications.  This fiasco, ultimately, has exposed potential retailers to financial catastrophe as they sit in their retail premises, fully staffed-up, fully stocked up, but as yet unaware of the fate of their licence application. 

Kurt Boehl is a lawyer who is representing several would-be pot retailers in Washington, many of whom are caught up in the red tape and remain unsure over whether they will be able to trade in the commodity they have fought so hard and risked so much to deliver.  “It’s a mess.  People are still scrambling to get their paperwork in.” says Boehl. 

So it looks like an unsteady start for Washington – many towns and counties within the state have already imposed blanket bans on marijuana-related business and many more have opted for a wait-and-see approach, holding off making decisions on new recreational licences, presumably until their competitors have got a sufficient head start.

Here at PureSativa, we’ll watch developments with interest, because as it stands at the moment, this looks like the perfect model for how not to introduce legalization in the UK.