'We're talking stoners here': Our state's marijuana era begins today (but not on Peninsula)
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Amber McGowan, left, an employee of Seattle's first and — right now — only store to sell recreational marijuana starting at noon today, applies a state-mandated frosted film to the front of a display case that will contain pot varieties during Monday's Cannabis City set-up. Fellow employee Krystal Klacsan is at right. —Photo by Ted S. Warren/The Associated Press

By Gene Johnson
The Associated Press

No licenses yet on Peninsula

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

Locals looking to score some of Washington's first legal marijuana today will have to make a trip off the North Olympic Peninsula for opening day.

None of the 24 stores licensed by the state Liquor Control Board on Monday is located on the Peninsula.

The nearest store that will open today is the Whidbey Island Cannabis Co. at 5826 S. Kramer Road in the Whidbey Island town of Langley.

Recreational marijuana was made legal in November 2012 when voters approved Initiative 502.

Of the 10 stores that were allowed the Peninsula, only two said they plan to open this month.

Sea Change, owned by Greg Brotherton at 282332 U.S. Highway 101 in Discovery Bay, and Herbal Access, owned by Forrest Thompson at 661 Ness Corner Road in Port Hadlock, expect be open by the end of July.

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.

The state plans to license 334 stores across the state.

Marijuana grown in Port Angeles will be on sale when the first shops open, but not locally.

Peninsula Cannabis has product that will be sold at the Altitude shop in the central Washington town of Prosser and in New Vansterdam in Vancouver, Wash.

More than 2,600 people applied to grow marijuana last fall, but only about 80 of them have been approved and started growing, leading to a marijuana shortage for new stores.

New Vansterdam president Brian Budz said as a retailer, he won't look to soak buyers of the limited crop of legal marijuana when his store, licensed Monday, opens Saturday at 6515 E. Mill Plain Blvd.

“As of now, the goal for most producers and retailers is to keep the prices down so we don't offend any of our customers,” Budz said.

“That may happen in some spots in the short term, but in the long term, we think that's a bad idea.”

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.
The state issued its first retail marijuana licenses Monday with a middle-of-the-night email alerting bleary-eyed pot-shop proprietors that they'll finally be able to open for business today.

“We're pretty stoked,” said John Evich, an investor in Bellingham's Top Shelf Cannabis, in a 2:30 a.m. interview with The Associated Press.

“We haven't had any sleep in a long time, but we're excited for the next step.”

Randy Simmons, the state Liquor Control Board's project manager for legal marijuana, said Sunday night that the first two dozen stores were being notified so early to give them an extra few hours to get cannabis on their shelves before they are allowed to open their doors at 8 a.m. today.

The store openings are expected to be accompanied by high prices, shortages and celebration.

The state licensed 14 stores in Western Washington and 10 elsewhere.

Spokane has three stores. Vancouver, Tacoma and Bellingham have two each. Seattle and the other cities on the list have one each.

[The closest one to the North Olympic Peninsula is on Whidbey Island. The list, including street addresses, can be viewed online at https://lcb.app.box.com/retail-7-7 .]

The issuance of the retail licenses marked a major step that's been 20 months in the making.

Washington and Colorado stunned much of the world by voting in November 2012 to legalize recreational marijuana for adults older than 21 and to create state-licensed systems for growing, selling and taxing the pot.

Sales began in Colorado on Jan. 1.

It remained unclear how many of the pot shops being licensed in Washington planned to open today. Officials eventually expect to have more than 300 recreational pot shops across the state.

At Cannabis City, which will be the first and, for now, only recreational marijuana shop in Seattle, owner James Lathrop worked into the night Sunday placing no-parking signs in front of his building, hoisting a grand-opening banner and hanging artwork before he turned his attention to his email — and the official notification that he was a licensed marijuana dealer.

“I've had a long day. It really hasn't sunk in yet,” he said early Monday.

He planned to hold off on opening his store until noon today.

“Know your audience: We're talking stoners here,” he said.

“I'd be mean to say they need to get up at 5 a.m. to get in line.”

With the emailed notifications in hand, the shops immediately worked to place their orders with some of the state's first licensed growers.

As soon as the orders were received — via state-approved software for tracking the pot with computerized bar codes — the growers could place the product in a required 24-hour “quarantine” before shipping it early this morning.

The final days before sales have been frenetic for growers and retailers alike.

Lathrop and his team hired an events company to provide crowd control, arranged for a food truck and free water for those who might spend hours waiting outside, and rented a portable toilet to keep his customers from burdening nearby businesses with requests to use the restrooms.

At Nine Point Growth Industries, a marijuana grower in Bremerton, owner Gregory Stewart said he and his director celebrated after they worked through some glitches in the pot-tracking software early Monday and officially learned they'd be able to transport their weed 24 hours later, at 2:22 a.m. today.

“It's the middle of the night, and we're standing here doing high-fives and our version of a happy dance,” he said. “It's huge for us.”

Pot prices were expected to reach $25 a gram or higher on the first day of sales — twice what people pay in the state's unregulated medical marijuana dispensaries.

That was largely due to the short supply of legally produced pot in the state.

Although more than 2,600 people applied to become licensed growers, fewer than 100 have been approved — and only about a dozen were ready to harvest by early this month.

Nevertheless, Evich said his shop in Bellingham wanted to thank the state's residents for voting for the law by offering $10 grams of one cannabis strain to the first 50 or 100 customers.

The other strains would be priced between $12 and $25, he said.

The store will be open at 8 a.m. today, he said, but work remained: trimming the bathroom door, cleaning the floors, wiping dust off the walls and, of course, stocking the shelves.

In Seattle, among those who planned to buy some of the first pot at Cannabis City was Alison Holcomb, the lawyer who drafted the state law.

She said it was a good opportunity to remind people of the big-picture arguments for ending nearly a century of prohibition and displacing the black market, including keeping nonviolent, adult marijuana users out of jail; redirecting profits away from criminal groups; and ending racial disparities in who gets busted.

“No one thought legalization could happen in our lifetime,” she said.

“I think this is going to be a little overwhelming for me.”

Last modified: July 07. 2014 6:47PM
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