SEATTLE -- What s the difference between medical marijuana and recreational? Absolutely nothing unless you re the state of Washington.

Medical pot producers planning to sell recreationally are being forced to shut down their businesses and start all over to keep in line with state law - this, despite a widespread Washington weed shortage in the recreational market.

At Seattle s New Leaf Enterprises, a pot shortage is the last thing you d be worried about. Everywhere you look people are packaging, pruning, and processing marijuana. The 13,000 square foot facility is currently growing 1,200 plants and producing 200 pounds of pot per month. Another 12,000 square feet is being prepped to more than double production.

I see a dream, said co-owner Dax Colwell. I see something I never thought I d see in my lifetime.

Meantime the two dozen or so pot shops that have been issued licenses to open across the state struggle with supply. Two weeks after the first store opened in Seattle, many still sit empty.

But why?

It turns out the state will not allow growers to sell pot designated as medicinal to recreational retailers, even though it s the exact same product.

It seems ridiculous to me, said Colwell, who is currently growing for the medicinal market and plans to switch to recreational.

Unlike Colorado, Washington is keeping medical and recreational marijuana separate. A medical grower cannot sell to a recreational outlet and vice versa. That means anyone who is already growing medical marijuana and wants to supply it to the pot for pleasure market will have to sell off all of their medical pot, shut their entire operations down and start from scratch.

We re looking at $1.5 million in lost revenue, said Colwell.

As a result, new retail stores already jonesing for product may have to wait even longer.

The problem is medical marijuana is unregulated in Washington. Not so with the recreation variety. The state wants to make sure every t is crossed when it comes to regulating the recreational side, so as not to invoke the wrath of the federal government, which still classifies marijuana in the same group as LSD and heroin.

For Colwell, he ll likely have to lay off his 35 workers during the two month shutdown.

He's hoping legislators will quickly change the state's new legalization law, allowing the medical and recreational systems to merge. That would permit current medical growers to simply convert to recreational and avoid the long transition process.

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