By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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It just won't be sold on the Peninsula.
None of the owners of the 10 shops allowed in Clallam and Jefferson counties expect to be in the first wave of marijuana sellers that will be announced by the Washington State Liquor Control Board on Monday.
“Yeah, there's nothing going to be open here,” said Rodney Caldwell, whose store Weed-R-Us was drawn in the state's May lottery to be one of three retail stores in unincorporated Clallam County
But Port Angeles-based Peninsula Cannabis will be stocked on the shelves of the Altitude recreational marijuana shop in Prosser and the New Vansterdam shop in Vancouver, Wash.
“We are hoping to get our products in all the local stores as soon as they open,” Peninsula Cannabis co-owner Ryan Herring said.
“Our first crop was fairly small, about 10 pounds,” Ryan Herring said.
“We are still expanding so it will take four to six harvests to get up to full capacity.”
Recreational marijuana was made legal in November 2012 when voters approved Initiative 502.
More than 2,600 people applied to grow marijuana last fall, but only about 80 of them have been approved and begun growing, leading to a marijuana shortage for new stores.
Herring is hoping that being one of the first brands on the market will give Peninsula Cannabis an advantage.
“We hope our initial marketing and branding attempts will catch the eyes of the consumer, and of course being one of the first companies in the marketplace should help us stand out,” Herring said.
Peninsula Cannabis is also working on supply agreements with Top Shelf Cannabis in Bellingham and Sea Change in Discovery Bay.
Overall, the state has accepted applications for operators of 334 stores, some 20 of which are expected to receive licenses Monday, which would allow them to open Tuesday, 19 months after voters opted to legalize recreational marijuana.
The state allotted Clallam County six retail stores: two in Port Angeles, one in Sequim and three anywhere else.
It will allow Jefferson County four retail cannabis stores: one in Port Townsend and three anywhere else.
Gracen Hook, who expects to open Port Townsend's sole retail outlet at 1433 West Sims Way, is refraining from being in the first wave of stores on purpose.
“I'm not going to rush into this,” he said. “I'm watching and waiting. I'm in no hurry.”
That sentiment was common among the Peninsula's pot shopkeepers, who worried prices for the limited supply of marijuana on the market would turn off customers.
“The prices some of these growers are asking are just insane,” Caldwell said.
“That's why we are not in a huge hurry, because we want to wait for some more growers to come in.”
One of those is Jean Davis, who runs the Tropic Grow marijuana farm in a barn at Dungeness.
Davis said her first crop, started as seeds in April, won't be ready for store shelves until August.
Herring said Peninsula Cannabis opted to keep prices low, with a wholesale price of $7 a gram, including tax.
Retailers must charge an additional 25 percent excise tax as part of the tax structure that accompanied marijuana legalization.
Herring predicted his product would sell to consumers at $15 to $20 a gram.
“Ultimately it's up to the retailers to set prices, and high demand and short supply may drive them to take advantage of the situation at the expense of the consumer,” he said.
Others have concerns other than prices.
Vivian Wai, who will run the Mr. Buds store in Port Angeles with husband Malik Atwater, said they were experiencing delays in getting their contractor to finish renovating their store location on Marine Drive.
David Halpern, whose Emanon Systems was selected in the lottery for Sequim's sole retail outlet, won't be opening because of a temporary ban on pot business instituted by the city council.
“It's going to be awhile before I can even begin to work on my building,” he said.
Sea Change, owned by Greg Brotherton, and Herbal Access Retail in Port Hadlock, owned by Forrest Thompson, expect to have both their shops inspected for the final time July 14.
They could open immediately after that if their license is granted.
Like Hook, both feel the lack of available product will limit their choices and it will take a few months to build up the inventory.
Thomson said that he expects prices to initially range from $20 to $25 a gram while Brotherton thinks it could be as low as $15.
Thomson said the high price might encourage users to apply for or renew a medical authorization, for which the per gram price averages about $10.
Clallam County has four conditional use permits pending for grow operations.
A few answers to questions
Here are the answers to a few common questions:
Q: Where will I be able to buy marijuana?
A: Though state has set up 334 stores around the state, Liquor Board officials said only as many as 20 are expected to be licensed Monday. There can be 10 stores on the North Olympic Peninsula, but none of them expect to be open until later this month at the earliest.
Q: Will there be pot for sale in all cities?
A: Yes and no. Stores have been approved in Port Angeles, Port Townsend, outside Forks and in rural Clallam and Jefferson counties. Sequim is allowed one shop, but the City Council banned marijuana businesses for six months in February. That ban could be extended or dropped by the council next month.
Q: How will the price compare to medical marijuana?
A: Medical marijuana sells for about $10 a gram, according to a few local operators of medical dispensaries.
With a 25 percent tax charged every time recreational marijuana changes hands, many potential pot shop operators are predicting prices double or triple the medical price.
Q: Where can I smoke marijuana?
A: Basically, inside your house, unless you use it as a day care or other social services. It can't be smoked on a front porch that can be seen from the street.
Pot is banned from national, county or municipal parks and Indian reservations. It can't be smoked in work places. Hotels can allow smoking in one-quarter of their rooms, but can also ban it outright.
Q: What do taxes fund?
A: As laid out in Initiative 502, half of the proceeds from marijuana taxes must go to fund Washington's basic health plan trust, with another 30 percent funding other public health programs and 18.7 percent going to the general fund. The state anticipates as much as $2 billion in tax revenue off marijuana.
Q: Does this affect medical marijuana?
A: Not yet, but the legislature did propose several bills that would merge medical and recreational marijuana markets in this spring's session.
Q: I saw a guy in a bear suit advertising medical marijuana in Port Angeles. Can recreational shops do that?
A: No. State laws are very strict on advertising recreational marijuana with restrictions forbidding advertising that appeals to children or in areas where children may be present.
Q: Can I still get into the pot business?
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org