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Washington state's drug problem: it's running out of cannabis

Colorado was the first US state to legalise the recreational use of the drug, but enjoyed a smoother transition as its medical marijuana system provided an existing framework for the recreational trade

Washington state is developing a drug problem: it doesn't have enough marijuana. After becoming the second US state to legalise cannabis for recreational use, Washington is expected to issue its first 15 to 20 licenses to retailers next Monday, 7 July, with its first dispensaries due to open for business the following day. But according to the state's Liquor Control Board, just one store in Seattle, the state's biggest city, is ready to face a final inspection, while those that do open are likely to suffer a severe shortage of product.

Of the 2,600 people who applied for licenses to grow marijuana in 2013, less than 80 have been approved. And of that number, many are still not ready to harvest their first crop. Just a handful of growers are thought to have submitted samples to the two labs certified by the state to test marijuana. In an interview with the Associated Press, Randy Simmons, the Liquor Control Board's legal weed chief, said, “Will there be shortages? The answer to that is yes.”

Washington and Colorado both voted to legalise marijuana for recreational use in late 2012, and Colorado opened its first legal cannabis dispensaries in January this year. Last week the Drug Policy Alliance released a report on the impact of legalisation in the state, which suggested Colorado's legal marijuana industry had raised some $20m (£12m) in taxes in the first half of 2014. Crime in the state has dropped by more than 10 per cent, according to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting data, with violent crime down by more than five per cent.

Video: Colorado introduces legal marijuana

Washington's legal weed launch is unlikely to go as smoothly as its predecessor's, not least because Colorado's regulated medical marijuana system provided an existing framework for the recreational marijuana trade. Last month New York became the latest US state to legalise medical marijuana, which is now permitted in 23 states and in Washington, DC. Alaska and Oregon are expected to vote later this year on whether to become the third and fourth states to legalise recreational marijuana.