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Tenino’s recreational marijuana retailer opens Friday

The Herbal Center will officially open Friday as Tenino’s first recreational marijuana retailer.

Store owner Jeff Frias, who made his first sale Wednesday afternoon during a soft opening, is eager to fill a void in south Thurston County.

“There’s not too many opportunities where you’re a pioneer in an industry,” Frias said, noting the trade’s evolving nature and legal issues. “If you are not comfortable with ambiguity, this is not the business for you.”

The store is at 449 S. Wichman St. in an industrial complex near the point where state Route 507 and Old Highway 99 split. Hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Shelves are stocked with strains such as Arcadia Train Wreck, Cataract Kush, Vietnam Haze, Blue Dream and Jesus OG. Prices range from $12 to $20 per gram.

Jared Altel, co-owner of Doc and Yeti Urban Farms, stopped by the store Wednesday to show off samples from the Tumwater grower’s indoor warehouse. Doc and Yeti regularly supplies cannabis to about 15 recreational stores in Washington, and Altel hopes to get The Herbal Center on board.

A surplus of marijuana has flooded the market in recent months — a complete reversal from the supply shortage and sky-high prices of last summer.

“It’s pretty cutthroat right now,” Altel said. “We’re just trying to weather the storm.”

Growers like Altel expect a boost from Senate Bill 5052, which was signed into law April 24 by Gov. Jay Inslee. The new law will regulate the state’s medical marijuana system and establish a voluntary database of authorized patients. The law goes into effect July 1, 2016.

In 2012, state voters legalized marijuana for adult recreational use with the passage of I-502. However, medical marijuana dispensaries have continued to operate in a legal gray area without a state license or governmental oversight.

As his store in Tenino opens for business, Frias also sees financial potential in the regulation of medical marijuana, namely as an opportunity to receive medical endorsements. In the meantime, Frias said the state’s tax structure must change in order for the legal marijuana industry to survive. The state applies a 25 percent excise tax, at each step, on producers, processors and retailers.

“Right now, we’re working for the state of Washington, basically,” Frias said. “We just want to be able to make a living.”

Since the first recreational marijuana retailers opened for businesses last summer, total tax revenue from marijuana sales has reached nearly $42 million, according to the Washington State Liquor Control Board. About 120 retailers are operating now, and the state is set to issue 334 total licenses.

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