By Charlie Bermant and Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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Sea Change Cannabis in Discovery Bay opened at 10 a.m. Friday, more than two weeks after the state's first pot shops began sales.
Its inventory was sold out by about 7:30 p.m., owner Greg Brotherton said.
The store at 282332 U.S. Highway 101, the first to be licensed and open in either Clallam or Jefferson counties, had 2½ pounds to sell, about 320 packets of one-eighths of an ounce each.
“It was a great first day. All of our systems worked well,” Brotherton said, adding that customers were from all over the map — not only locals but visitors from Canada, California, Florida and Wisconsin.
Brotherton expects to have about the same amount on hand when he reopens at 10 a.m. this coming Friday.
“But we'll be looking around and will buy as much as we can find,” he said.
Like other pot retailers statewide, Brotherton is facing a shortage of legal marijuana.
The state Liquor Control Board has approved fewer than 100 growers, and supply can't meet demand.
About 60 people had lined up at the store, a converted espresso stand, before it opened.
“I'm here to be part of Jefferson County history,” Mark Clark of Discovery Bay said.
Much of the crowd appeared to be well over 60 years old. Even so, store employees checked identification twice, once in line and again at purchase.
Bucking the age trend was the first customer, 39-year-old River Carey of Port Townsend.
Carey arrived at 8 a.m. for the Sea Change grand opening and bought marijuana from budtender Jessica Bahrijczuk shortly after the doors opened two hours later.
He paid $106.50 cash for two one-eighth-ounce packages of Peninsula Cannabis marijuana — one bag of the OG Gohst Train Haze variety and one bag of White Widow — and a pack of Elements rolling papers.
“This [expletive] is expensive,” Carey said.
Friday's opening featured three strains of marijuana grown by Peninsula Cannabis in Port Angeles: the “gohst” and “widow” varieties, and another called Jack Frost, which cost from $45 to $55 for one-eighth of an ounce.
This compares with about $10 a gram for medical marijuana, or about $300 an ounce for marijuana sold on the street, according to Gracen Hook, who operates a medical marijuana store in Port Townsend and who expects to open Port Townsend's sole retail outlet at 1433 W. Sims Way later this year.
Cost was a concern for many of those shopping at Sea Change, housed in a recently converted espresso stand with a log cabin facade.
“I'm here for the history of it and because it's a good idea,” said Jake Carmichael, 68, of Joyce, a retired postal worker.
“But I probably won't come back until the prices go down.
“The taxes are outrageous, and the law needs a lot of tweaking, but it's a step forward,” he added.”
The law voters passed in 2012 to legalize pot for adults specifies that excise taxes of 25 percent are imposed when producers sell to licensed retail stores, and another 25 percent is imposed when shops sell to consumers.
Despite the shortage of legal pot, excise taxes due from sales for the first three days, July 8-10, of sales statewide totaled $148,256, according to The Associated Press.
Carmichael said that as long as prices remain high, he plans to keep using his illegal supplier.
Many of those in line were members of the generation that popularized marijuana smoking in the 1960s and '70s.
“There was a certain guilt in smoking when it was illegal,” said Dawn Levy, 43, of Bainbridge Island.
“And as a female, it can be difficult to secure any pot because you are at the will of other people and don't have a chance to choose a clean, good-quality product.”
Levy said legalization has given her the opportunity to have meaningful conversations about all drug use with her 18-year-old daughter.
Rachel Thompson, 24, of Sequim was buying a gift for her father.
“I'm here getting some for my dad, for his birthday,” she said.
“It's what he wanted, and he didn't want to wait in line.”
James Thompson, 27, of Victoria stopped by the store on his way to camp with friends.
“British Columbia is known for weed, so for us to have to come to the U.S. to buy some is a little backwards,” said Thompson, who added he would never bring marijuana across the border either way.
“When we came down here before, there was always something missing,” he added.
“Now we can have our adventures the way that we want.”
As Thompson will not bring pot across the border “we'll need to finish this by tomorrow night,” he said.
Friday's opening sales were cash-only. Brotherton said he expects to accept debit and credit cards soon.
Under the state's law, adults can possess no more than 1 ounce of marijuana for recreational purposes.
Along with Hook's shop, one other retail outlet in Jefferson County is in the latter stage of the approval process.
Forrest Thomsen's Herbal Access Retail at 661 Ness' Corner Road is shooting for a mid-August opening.
A September date is the earliest Hook expects to open. He has said he would wait until prices fall and supply is reliable, explaining that he won't close a successful medical pot facility for a venture without a dependable inventory.
The state allotted Jefferson County four retail cannabis stores: one in Port Townsend and three in unincorporated areas.
Clallam County can have six retail stores: two in Port Angeles, one in Sequim and three anywhere else.
None expects to receive a state license this month.
Heather Owen, owner of the Hidden Bush outside Port Angeles, hopes to have her license by early August.
Contractor delays have pushed back Sparket's opening until after Labor Day, said Wendy Buck-Benge in Port Angeles.
Malik Atwater is waiting for contractors to finish remodeling his Mr. Buds store on Marine Drive in Port Angeles.
Rodney Caldwell said he will wait to open Weed-R-Us on U.S. Highway 101 outside Port Angeles until more marijuana is available for sale.
In Sequim, David Halpern expects to get the keys for his shop site on West Washington Street in early August but must remodel to meet state marijuana shop requirements.
That may be moot, anyhow, as Sequim has a moratorium in place prohibiting the establishment of marijuana businesses.
Jennifer Brassfield of High Grade Organics shop in Forks did not return calls seeking an opening date.
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or email@example.com.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz contributed to this report.