By Bryan Cohen
SEATTLE (Reuters) - Washington state, which is moving forward on allowing stores to sell pot for recreational use, will require child-resistant packaging on marijuana products and prohibit images that could appeal to minors, Governor Jay Inslee said on Tuesday.
The Democratic governor and other officials, speaking at a news conference in the state capital of Olympia two weeks ahead of the opening of the state's first marijuana stores, said their primary goal is to keep the drug away from those under age 21.
Voters in Washington state and Colorado in 2012 became the first in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana at the state level, and Colorado has allowed sales of the drug at retail stores for adult consumers age 21 and older since the beginning of the year.
The drug is still banned under federal law, but officials with the U.S. Department of Justice say they will not interfere with states' efforts to regulate and tax it, provided state officials are able to meet a minimum set of requirements that include keeping it away from children.
"If we fail to act, this effort to legalize recreational marijuana could be in some doubt," Inslee said.
"And I know those who have led the effort to legalize this product understand that we've got to make sure that parents' roles are respected and emphasized and that the health of our children is of our paramount concern," he said.
To protect children, the state will not allow cartoons on packaging or toys to be sold with the drug, Inslee said.
The state also will require businesses to clearly label their products, divide them into easily identifiable servings with details on how much high-inducing THC is contained and have their products tested by an accredited private lab to screen for such hazards as pesticides and mold, officials said.
The Washington state Liquor Control Board on July 7 will issue licenses to roughly 20 marijuana retail stores, said Sharon Foster, chairwoman of the state Liquor Control Board. They can open the next day if they have product on hand.
None of those stores will immediately sell edible products because no processor has obtained a license for a cannabis kitchen, said Liquor Control Board spokesman Brian Smith.
State regulators were prepared to license a total of 334 retail stores, but due to local moratoriums and bans the final number of pot shops is expected to be lower, Smith said.
(Reporting by Bryan Cohen in Seattle, Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Sandra Maler, Eric Beech and Gunna Dickson)