JEFFERSON: Retail pot a 'great opportunity,' economic development representativesays
The Associated Press
By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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“This is a great opportunity for us,” said Marty Gay, board chairman for EDC Team Jefferson, on Friday.
“We may not have the experience and knowledge for this specific market, but we can provide an important value-added piece,” he said.
“We have the agricultural abilities and attention to detail that will allow us to produce and market some appealing products.”
Licenses, for which applications will be available Nov. 18, will fall into one of three categories: retail, growing and production of cannabis products.
Gay said he feels that Jefferson County's agricultural industry can easily adapt to growing cannabis, while it is also a good place for the establishment of enterprises that produce the marijuana-infused products that are expected to make up a large part of the market.
Marijuana cannot be legally designated as organic, as it is still illegal under federal law, but Gay said Jefferson County farmers can follow the organic best practices that will yield a pure, healthy product.
“One of the great things about the new rules is that you are required to list everything that is in the product, so you know exactly what kinds of pesticides and chemicals have been added,” he said.
These rules will make legal pot safer than the product provided through illegal channels that users have smoked for years, Gay said.
Washington voters last year approved Initiative 502, which legalized the possession of up to an ounce of pot by adults older than 21.
The state Liquor Control Board last Wednesday approved new rules for the legal cannabis industry that allow for four retail stores in Jefferson County, one within the Port Townsend city limit and three in the unincorporated areas, and six recreational marijuana outlets in Clallam County.
The state rules, which cover security and size of marijuana gardens, allow for a total of 334 marijuana outlets in the state. Those stores are expected to be open for business by next summer.
In August, the Port Townsend City Council enacted a six-month moratorium on retail pot outlets, during which time the city Planning Commission is scheduled to address zoning issues.
Previously announced guidelines forbid the opening of any retail pot store within 1,000 feet of any schools, parks or government buildings, although that rule was made less restrictive by an amendment that defined the 1,000 feet as public access and not as the crow flies.
Even so, the areas where a store can be located in Port Townsend are limited. With all the 1,000-foot buffers and the requirement to locate within the business district, the only “white area” on the city-supplied map surrounds the shopping center on Sims Way that hosts QFC and several other businesses.
Ken Kim, who owns the Tobacco Den at 1230 Sims Way, already sells pipes and paraphernalia that can be used for marijuana but said he will not apply for a retail license because it forbids the sale of any other products.
Jefferson County is not imposing a moratorium in the unincorporated areas but is developing a structure to deal with the necessary permit and law enforcement issues, according to material presented to the county commissioners Oct. 14.
Nicole Black of Brinnon intends to apply for a license to operate a retail outlet in that south county community.
“This is an accepting community, and there is a lot of support for this idea,” she said.
“It's an exciting opportunity, and it's a cool thing to be on the front line in a new era of public policy.”
Prospective retailers must present a business plan, financing data and a location, and have no criminal record.
Once they meet these requirements, the licenses will be awarded through a lottery.
This process also includes local input. Each application will be forwarded to local jurisdictions to make sure the location is within the allowed boundaries, according to Port Townsend City Attorney John Watts.
“It's pretty much what I expected, although the lottery is a little extreme,” said Gracen Hook, owner of the Port Hadlock Alternative Medical Clinic, a medical marijuana facility at 215 W. Patison St.
“There are a lot of rules to make sure that you actually qualify.”
Hook plans to apply for a retail store at 1433 Sims Way in Port Townsend but isn't sure whether that property falls within the 1,000-foot limit.
Hook said the applications will not be made available until the process begins.
“It's going to be a very complicated process to get the application done,” Hook said of the progress.
“It's a very complex business to be in and more of an undertaking than most people think it is.”
Gay agreed, saying the stereotype of a couch-bound stoner won't be able to participate.
“While a lot of the retailers will smoke pot, this whole 'Mr. Natural' image will go away,” he said of the cartoon caricature of the typical marijuana user that has existed since the 1960s.
“This isn't a business for lazy people.”
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or email@example.com.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Last modified: October 20. 2013 5:42PM