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Wed., April 2, 2014, 4:43 p.m.

Pot store lottery at the end of April

OLYMPIAWashington will announce the winners of licenses for its first legal recreational marijuana stores at the beginning of May, after a complicated “double-blind” lottery is held at the end of this month.

The first legal sales aren’t likely until the beginning of July, after the lottery winners complete construction, pass final inspection and get their products from state-licensed marijuana farms. . . 

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. . . The state Liquor Control Board approved plans Wednesday for a lottery to award the 334 allowed store licenses., for which it received more than 2,100 applications late last year. That  number is dropping, as some applicants fail to supply the agency with requested information.

Deputy director Randy Simmons said more than 500 applicants failed to respond last month to an agency request for five basic pieces of information, and have been removed from the list of potential licensees. A similar number of those who responded might be knocked out for not sending all the information requested, he said.

That likely will still leave far more applicants in many communities than the board will allow in its first round of licensing. Each of the state’s 39 counties has an allotment, with a certain number set aside for bigger cities and the remainder allowed to be spread among smaller cities or unincorporated areas.

 Spokane County, for example, will be allowed 18 stores – seven in the city of Spokane, three in the city of Spokane Valley, and seven in the rest of the county. It had 163 retail applications.

To select the winning licensees, the liquor board will hire the Seattle accounting firm that audits the state Lottery to assign numbers to each applicant in a city or county that has more than the allotted numbers. The Social and Economic Sciences Research Center at Washington State University produce a separate list of randomly generated numbers for each jurisdiction. Those two sets of numbers, sent in sealed envelopes, will be opened by the state treasurer’s office in late April and the numbers will be matched up. The agency will notify winners on May 1.

The winning applicants will be posted on the agency’s website on May 2, but they must still pass inspections by the state.

Inspections will take place first in cities and counties that don’t have bans or moratoria on recreational marijuana businesses, because those are the most likely to get any needed local approval quickly.

“We cannot control how fast people get up and running,” Simmons said. “All 334 stores will not open at the same time.”

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Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981. He is currently the political reporter and state government reporter in the newspaper's Olympia bureau office.

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