Three stores in north Spokane are among the 25 applicants awarded Washington’s first licenses to sell recreational marijuana, but only one expects to open today, the first day such sales are legal.
The state Liquor Control Board announced the first list of store licenses it is issuing for communities across Washington on Monday. Of the 10 in Eastern Washington, three are in the Spokane area.
But only Spokane Green Leaf, 9107 N. Country Homes Blvd., expects to be open today, and one of the owners said they have not yet settled on a time. Because of supply problems that include a processor in the Seattle area canceling over the weekend, it may be a “soft opening” followed by a grand opening this weekend. Store employees later told Spokane television stations Green Leaf likely will open at 2 p.m.
The other two local licensees said they will open in the near future but have not set dates.
Justin Wilson of Satori, 9301 N. Division St., said opening today “would be amazing” but he thinks a more likely scenario would be next week because of supply problems. He’s been working with producers and processors who don’t have marijuana available yet and is reaching out to other suppliers who may have been working with stores that didn’t receive a license in the first round.
“It’s up in the air right now,” said Wilson, whose recreational marijuana store is opening in a former fitness center next to Piece of Mind, a tobacco, pipe and accessories store he owns. Satori is a Buddhist term that means sudden enlightenment, which Wilson said he thought was appropriate for the state’s people and its government finally waking up to the potential of the drug.
Sam Calvert of Green Star Cannabis, 1403 N. Division St., said his business plan was always to open a little later than the first week and he’s sticking with that. He’s looking at a range of dates and will announce an opening soon.
Starting today, the stores can open after receiving marijuana and entering it into a system that tracks the drug through its growth and harvesting, processing and eventual sale. But receiving the license is not a guarantee of opening. The stores can only sell marijuana from state-licensed growers and processors, and that reportedly is in short supply.
Because of early shortages and a series of taxes imposed on the drug by the law that legalized it for adults, the price of recreational marijuana is expected to be $20 per gram or more, about twice what it is at medical marijuana dispensaries, which are largely unregulated and operate under a different set of laws. Recreational marijuana also is more heavily taxed, with an excise tax levied on producers, processors and retailers.
Washington voters legalized recreational marijuana use for adults by passing Initiative 502 in 2012, but it has taken about a year and a half to set up the system to accommodate legal sales.
The initiative put the state Liquor Control Board in charge of regulating the production, processing and sale of recreational marijuana, and the board held a series of public hearings before setting up regulations for those businesses.
It set the upper limit of recreational marijuana stores for the state at 334, with the number of licenses divided among the 39 counties and most cities. The stores had to be at least 1,000 feet from schools, parks and other facilities that cater to children, and meet local zoning rules.
Some would-be marijuana business operators quickly ran into problems finding a location, and some communities passed temporary or permanent bans on stores, farms or processors. All businesses struggle with banking because federal banking rules do not allow deposits from illegal drug operations, and federal law still classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, making it illegal for all uses.
The state had more than 2,100 applications for the 334 retail slots and held lotteries in most communities to select who would be given the first chance to complete the licensing and open a store.
The 25 stores to receive a green light Monday first passed background checks and inspections for security equipment and had in place a system to track the marijuana and payment of final fees.
A dozen or so more stores will receive the go-ahead in the near future, agency officials said.
Although the state received more than 2,650 applications to grow marijuana, as of last week it had approved only 62 licenses.
Liquor Control Board staff blame the delay on applicants not being ready for inspections, while some potential growers complain they are ready but can’t get inspected. A marijuana plant takes about two months to be ready to harvest, so only the growing operations licensed before May are likely to have product available for the start of retail sales.
The agency has not yet approved any edible products such as cookies, brownies or candies, which must be clearly labeled with the dosage of the psychoactive ingredient and marked to show what a single dose is.
Other agency rules say marijuana products must be packaged in child-proof containers and not have labels that target children or teens. Sales are limited to people 21 or older, and minors are not allowed in stores.
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