Pot shop license applications exceed area cities’ allotments

Staff writerDecember 20, 2013 

The state closes its application window for hopeful marijuana entrepreneurs at 5 p.m. Friday, and already it’s clear more people want to sell pot in several Thurston County communities than the state will allow.

As of Tuesday, Olympia had five times as many pot shop applicants than allotted. The Liquor Control Board plans to grant licenses to two retail marijuana shops in Olympia, but 10 proposed businesses had applied as of Tuesday, with names including Cannatopia, Budd Bay Marijuana and United We’d Stand.

The Olympia City Council voted last month to allow state-licensed pot sellers, growers and processors within the city limits as long as the businesses comply with local and state regulations.

Applications for marijuana storefronts in Lacey and Tumwater also have exceeded the state’s quota, with four businesses looking to sell pot in Lacey and two in Tumwater. The state rules only permit two marijuana shops in Lacey and one in Tumwater.

State rules allow for another six at-large pot retail stores in the other areas of Thurston County, including unincorporated areas. But as of Tuesday, only one application had come in from outside Olympia, Tumwater and Lacey: an application from a liquor store in Rochester.

Washington voters approved Initiative 502 in 2012, legalizing recreational marijuana use for those 21 and older. Statewide, businesses have submitted 512 applications for the 334 retail pot licenses the liquor board plans to issue.

Ultimately, the state will use a lottery system to decide who will receive the limited number of pot retail licenses in cities with high numbers of applicants, Liquor Control Board spokesman Brian Smith said. Though the details of that lottery have yet to be worked out, there is no plan to reallocate licenses destined for low-demand areas, Smith said.

The particulars of the lottery system will be decided later, Smith said, partly because regulators still are waiting to see how many license applications come in. The total number of applicants for marijuana business licenses won’t be available until sometime in January because of a processing backlog at the Department of Revenue and the Liquor Control Board, Smith said.

The liquor board also must investigate applicants to make sure they meet residency requirements and pass financial and criminal background checks. State investigators also must establish that applicants have a workable location that is not within 1,000 feet of schools, public parks, transit centers or other specified gathering areas.

The results of those investigations are likely to winnow the applicant pool, Smith said.

“A lot of these people, they’re not going to get qualified or they don’t necessarily have a location yet,” Smith said. “When we go through the investigation process we’re finding some people don’t have an address that is really working.”

Unlike with retail marijuana stores, the state is not planning to limit the number of licenses it grants to marijuana producers and processors.

As of Tuesday, 63 businesses had applied to be licensed as marijuana producers in Thurston County, with 34 of those looking to locate in Olympia.

Forty-two businesses applied for marijuana processing licenses in the county, 26 of them in Olympia.

The state plans to fast-track the licensing of marijuana producers and processors and issue licenses in March, Smith said.

Retail stores should be licensed in time to open in June, he said.

Melissa Santos; 360-357-0209 msantos@theolympian.com @melissasantos1

Applicants for retail marijuana licenses in Thurston County

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