By Charlie Bermant and Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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The state Liquor Control Board announced the winners of lotteries held to determine who would be the first to be considered for licenses to sell recreational marijuana in jurisdictions around the state.
“I'm really excited about this, but there is a lot I don't know right now,” said Greg Brotherton of Quilcene.
Brotherton, 42, is a partner in Sea Change Cannabis at 282332 U.S. Highway 101 in Discovery Bay, which was the No. 1 name drawn for three stores from five applicants in Jefferson County's at-large lottery.
Gracen Hook runs the Alternative Clinic franchise of medical marijuana dispensaries at 215 W. Patison St., Port Hadlock, and 1433 E. Sims Way, Port Townsend.
His Peninsula Herbal company topped the lottery of five for Port Townsend's sole outlet.
Hook said he's already “connected up” with producers and processors, and thinks his experience running a medical dispensary could help as he moves into the retail market.
“I've got a big advantage and a longstanding background in this”
Lotteries were held for 10 shops on the Olympic Peninsula and included 34 applicants who got through initial screening.
Four of those are in Jefferson County, with one in Port Townsend and three anywhere in the county.
Hook said he hoped the shops would create a new market of marijuana tourists to the Olympic Peninsula.
But being selected in the lottery is no guarantee of a retail license and a store.
The 10 selected now will go through more thorough background checks and have their business plans reviewed by the state before getting official licenses to open.
“There's really nothing,” Hook said of concerns over passing state review.
There are multiple requirements for licensure. An applicant must pass a criminal history and financial investigation as well as have a location that is not within 1,000 feet of a school, park or other area specified by Initiative 502 as places where children congregate.
If any of the selected applicants fail to qualify for licenses, the state would then move on to the next-ranked applicants from the lottery list.
Brotherton opened the Quilcene Village Store with his family two years ago and is expanding the business with an additional smaller (850 square feet) grocery store at the new location, which he expects will eventually include an espresso stand and a commercial kitchen.
The pot business would be located in a 150-square-foot log cabin outbuilding.
On Friday, Brotherton was meeting with a security consultant to design the required safeguards.
He doesn't know when the store might open.
It depends on the availability of product and the installation of security, he said, adding that he would have a better handle on these issues in about a week.
Hook's shop will be set up in the same location as his Port Townsend Alternative Clinic.
He hopes to continue to be able to dispense medical marijuana for as long as the state will allow him before turning it into a retail shop.
He had little doubt he would pass the background check.
Hook said he may need help meeting the state's stiff regulatory requirements for safety and accountability, as well as in cracking the marijuana industry's complex tax structure.
“It's going to be a very complicated and regulated system,” he said.
Initiative 502 laid out an excise tax that is collected by the state each time marijuana is sold. Retail marijuana also will be subject to local sales tax rates.
The retail shops will be supplied by state-licensed producers and processors.
As of April 29, the state Liquor Control Board had issued 25 producer and processor licenses, including two on the North Olympic Peninsula: Tropic Grow in Dungeness and Peninsula Cannabis in Port Angeles.
Both Brotherton's and Hook's proposed locations appear to be clear from conflicts with local laws.
Port Townsend barred retail outlets from residential zones, but that point is moot, as Hook's store is in a commercial building at 1433 W. Sims Way.
The alternate lottery applicants ranked behind Peninsula Herbal are also located in commercial zones.
Neither Clallam nor Jefferson counties have bans, either, though zoning laws have been reviewed and will be applied.
That's not the case in Sequim, where lottery winner David Halpern faces a citywide moratorium on marijuana shops.
Halpern's Emanon Systems Inc. was the first application drawn for a license to operate the one retail outlet allotted to Sequim. The application lists an address of 755 W. Washington St., Suite C, for Halpern's shop.
The site is currently occupied by an office of the Edward Jones financial services company.
Halpern said he spoke with the landlord of the four-unit building, which also houses a Domino's Pizza, and was told the Edward Jones office was seeking a new location.
The Sequim City Council placed a six-month moratorium on marijuana businesses in the city limit in February, which means even if he gets approval and the space, Halpern won't be able to open.
The council can extend the moratorium after it expires, City Attorney Craig Ritchie said.
“It's like I have this brand-new jet, and they won't let me on the tarmac,” Halpern said of the city.
He has frequented council meetings with pleas to repeal the moratorium and may float a petition to have the moratorium repealed.
Mayor Candace Pratt doubted the council would repeal the moratorium before it expires.
“It's going to continue at least until its six months is up,” she said.
In Forks, where High Grade Organics at 100 LaPush Road was selected as one of three at-large retailers in Clallam County, the city has not set up any marijuana regulations.
City Attorney Rod Fleck said the city interpreted state liquor board rules to mean the at-large permits would have to be sited in unincorporated areas.
He said the city will seek clarification from the state.
In Port Angeles, Sparket would be at 1403 E. First St., where Wendy Buck-Benge and her husband, Nicholas Benge, now operate a medical marijuana dispensary under the same name.
“I still don't know how it's all going to work out, but it's really exciting to be a part of this massive shift in perspective,” said Buck-Benge.
Malik Atwater, co-owner of Colonel Hudson's Famous Kitchen at 536 Marine Drive in Port Angeles, plans to open a pot shop next to his restaurant.
Mr. Buds would be run by Atwater and his wife, Vivian Wai, who also is his business partner in the restaurant.
“It's frequently the case people who get in first on the ground floor on something [are who] usually benefit the most,” Atwater said.
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at email@example.com.