State weeds out bogus pot businesses; some in Peninsula law enforcement think it’s ‘foolish’

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

OLYMPIA — Marijuana business applications are trickling in as cities, counties and the state Liquor Control Board try to weed out the pipe dreamers from the entrepreneurs.

State officials are sorting through 6,619 applications for growing, processing or selling pot under voter-approved state Initiative 502.

Some of the 168 pot business applicants on the North Olympic Peninsula have submitted bogus names and addresses, with no way to verify the identity the people behind the prospective business, said Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict, who had addressed Clallam County commissioners last week.

“I think what the Liquor Control Board is doing is foolish,” he said. “They’re giving us a bunch of fictitious names and asking us to make comments.

“I refuse to make any comments, other than it’s foolish,” Benedict added.

Joe Nole, Jefferson County chief criminal deputy, said the Sheriff’s Office hasn’t received any information about specific applicants from the state.

“We don’t have any problems with the way the state is setting everything up,” Nole said.

“That doesn’t mean that problems might not come out in the future,” he added. “If so, we’ll address it then.”

The onus falls on the state Liquor Control Board to verify the legitimacy of marijuana business applicants, said Mikhail Carpenter, state Liquor Control Board spokesman.

The state will do background checks on applicants, who must be residents of Washington state and have their business areas inspected by the state.

Once a pot shop is validated, the state will send a “local authority notice” to a city councils and county lawmakers for comment.

Local jurisdictions then have 20 days to weigh in with approval, objection or no response.

Clallam County has 100 business license applications for the marijuana law — 43 for growing, 28 for processing and 29 for selling cannabis.

Neighboring Jefferson County has 68 pot licenses applications being considered — 26 for growing, 25 for processing and 17 for selling.

Calls requesting comment from the Jefferson County sheriff were not returned.

State officials say there will be no more than 10 marijuana retail outlets on the Peninsula and 334 statewide. That means 1,701 pot shops will be denied.

A lottery will be held to determine which pot retailers get a business license and which ones don’t.

No timeline has been set for the lottery, and the composition of the lottery is still undetermined.

“We need to find out how many of these applications are actually viable before we hold a lottery,” Carpenter said.

Under the new law, a marijuana business cannot operate within 1,000 feet of a school, park, day care center, library, or anywhere where kids play.

As of Friday, three state-vetted pot business applications had been sent to Clallam County officials for review.

Regardless of how local jurisdictions approach the new law, the state will issue marijuana licenses for growers in late February and open pot shops in June, Carpenter said.

“After that, it’s up to the market itself,” Carpenter said.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at rob.ollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: January 11. 2014 8:12PM
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