Pot-shop applicants fear process won’t be fair

The Seattle TimesJanuary 13, 2014 

Sean Houlihan, Marijuana Licensing Investigator with the Washington State Liquor Control Board answers questions from a person interested in the application on the guidelines of growing marijuana at the Washington Liquor Control Board headquarters in Olympia on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013.

PHOTO BY LUI KIT WONG — Tacoma News-Tribune Buy Photo

With business booming in Colorado’s new legal pot shops, a license for a retail pot store in Washington state is a coveted prize, a “golden ticket,” said pot entrepreneur John Davis.

Look no further than the 2,035 applications, and counting, heaped upon state officials for just 334 proposed shops. For qualified applicants who make it through the state’s vetting process, a lottery awaits to pick winners.

The culling has started. State marijuana licensing manager Becky Smith told Liquor Control Board members last week that many retail applicants were disqualified at first glance because their proposed locations were in residences or did not comply with the state law requiring a 1,000-foot buffer from venues frequented by youth.

Still, concerns about fairness remain, as the state sifts through more than 6,600 producer, processor and retail pot-license applications, an abundance that wasn’t anticipated by the state’s top consultant, Mark Kleiman, who quipped several times last year, “What if we threw a legalization and nobody came?”

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