By Jeremy Schwartz and Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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Winners of a state lottery are in line to run the 10 retail marijuana shops allocated for the North Olympic Peninsula made legal by the voter-approved Initiative 502.
The state Liquor Control Board announced Friday the names of the operators selected from the 34 applicants who got through the initial screening process to qualify for lotteries run April 21-28.
The state held the lottery because 1,174 applications had passed initial screenings to run the 334 stores the state is initially allowing.
On the Peninsula, lotteries were held for two stores in Port Angeles, one in Sequim, three anywhere in Clallam County, one in Port Townsend and three anywhere in Jefferson County.
Clallam and Jefferson counties had 50 applicants initially vie for the retail licenses, but pre-lottery screenings rejected 16 of those.
The lotteries determined who would get first crack at running pot shops in 75 jurisdictions. Forty-seven jurisdictions did not need lotteries.
The state will now do background checks on the lottery winners and will more thoroughly review their business plans.
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 a selected applicant fails to qualify for a license, the state would then move on to the next-ranked applicant on the lottery list.
Provided they pass the screening process, the following businesses have been chosen by the state to operate retail marijuana stores on the Peninsula:
■ Clallam County at large: The Hidden Bush, 2840 E. U.S. Highway 101, Port Angeles; High Grade Organics, 100 LaPush Road, Suite 602, Forks; Weed-R-Us, 2941 E. U.S. Highway 101, Port Angeles.
■ Jefferson County at large: Sea Change Cannabis, 282332 U.S. Highway 101, Port Townsend; Chimacum Cannabis, 1473 Chimacum Road, Building 1, Suite A; Herbal Access, 661 Ness Corner Road, Port Hadlock.
■ City of Port Angeles: Pacific Education, 536 Marine Drive, Suite B; Sparket, 1403 E. First St.
■ City of Port Townsend: Peninsula Herbal 1433 W. Sims Way, Unit B.
■ City of Sequim: Emanon Systems Inc., 755 W. Washington St., Suite C.
The state Liquor Control Board announced Friday the winning applications from lotteries held April 21-28 to determine which of the 34 applicants for the Peninsula's 10 retail stores who had passed through initial rounds of state screening would be considered for licenses.
“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 Wendy Buck-Benge, who with husband Nicholas Benge was second in the two-store Port Angeles lottery.
Their store, Sparket, would be at 1403 E. First St., where the Benges now operate a medical marijuana dispensary under the same name.
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.
The Atwaters' business was drawn first in the Port Angeles lottery.
He said he doesn't partake of marijuana but sees retail pot as a unique business opportunity.
“It's frequently the case people who get in first on the ground floor on something [are who] usually benefit the most,” Atwater said.
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 will have their business plans reviewed by the state before getting official licenses to open.
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, which voters approved in 2012, as places where children congregate.
If any of the selected applicants fail to qualify for licenses, the state then will move on to the next-ranked applicants from the lottery list.
“It's not often you pioneer a new industry,” Buck-Benge said.
But with that pioneering comes lots of uncertainty.
Said Atwater: “It's very difficult to make plans or predictions on a business when it didn't exist before.”
The Benges set up their dispensary under the same conditions the state laid out for retail outlets, with high-security measures and pre-packaged product.
Buck-Benge said she hopes the legalization voters approved will help take away some of the “stoner stigma” often attached to marijuana users.
“I would very much like to help change the face of that,” she said.
In addition to waiting for the state's final decision on his license, David Halpern needs a change in Sequim's policy governing 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 Edward Jones financial services company office.
Halpern said he spoke with the landlord of the four-unit building, which also houses 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 within 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.
Halpern has frequented City Council meetings with pleas to repeal the moratorium and is considering floating a petition asking that it be 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.
Nathan West, Port Angeles community and economic development director, said Atwater needs only a conditional-use permit to open a marijuana retail store, once approved by the state, since it sits in a light-industrial zone.
West said Atwater is in the process of applying for the permit.
Port Angeles does not have a moratorium on retail marijuana businesses.
Port Townsend barred retail outlets from residential zones, but that point is moot, as the lottery-winning Peninsula Herbal plans to site in a commercial building at 1433 W. Sims Way.
The alternates drawn after Peninsula Herbal are also located in commercial zones.
Tom 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.
Chimacum Cannabis and Herbal Access in Port Hadlock also won.
Neither Clallam nor Jefferson counties have bans either, though zoning laws have been reviewed and will be applied.
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.
The city will seek clarification from the state.
Fleck did say he thought the proposed location in the 110 Business Park on the very east edge of the Forks city limit could be acceptable because it is separated from the city's core.
“Of all the places it could be in Forks, that may be the best place,” Fleck said.
The retail shops will be supplied by state-licensed producers and processors.
As of April 29, the Liquor Control Board has issued 25 producer and processor licenses, including two on the North Olympic Peninsula: Tropic Grow in Dungeness and Peninsula Cannabis in Port Angeles.
Halpern said Thomas Ash, owner of Tropic Grow, called him with congratulations after the lottery results were announced Friday morning.
“It would be great to be able to get my supply from a local source like Tom,” Halpern said Friday.
“But I really haven't gotten to the point of picking suppliers, since I didn't know if I was going to get the shop or not.”
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, 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.
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant contributed to this report.