Politics & Government

Pot retail license lottery results released

And now comes the tough part.

The state Liquor Control Board on Friday announced the names of aspiring entrepreneurs who were chosen in a lottery determining those eligible to take the next step toward receiving a license to sell recreational marijuana.

Board spokesman Mikhail Carpenter said the successful applicants now face a rigorous background check concerning matters including criminal backgrounds, financial resources and the viability of a business plan.

Being named to Friday’s list does not guarantee a license.

In all, the state will award 334 retail licenses. Of those, eight will be issued in Tacoma, 17 in Pierce County at-large, two in Olympia, one in Tumwater and six in Thurston County at-large.

Friday’s list saw 44 enterprises named in Tacoma, plus 45 in Pierce County at-large, nine in Olympia and 19 in Thurston County at-large.

Successful applicants were not named in counties or cities, including the City of University Place, where the number of applicants was equal to or less than the number of licenses available.

“We’re excited to see things finally evolve,” said Matt Freet, whose South Tacoma business was named among the top entries on the Tacoma list. “Now comes the second scrutiny.”

“I’m excited that I’ll have a chance, and that my daughter can go to college,” he said. “I didn’t care for the lottery, but what system would be better? It has to start somewhere.”

“We’re a little disappointed at the number we got. We’re pretty far off,” said David Blair, whose proposed Tacoma business was listed 37th of 44.

Christina Perez is more disappointed still. A Tacoma property she is purchasing – at 4006 and 4002 Pacific Avenue - was named first and again fourth in the lottery results.

However, her own application for a property on South 12th Street in Tacoma placed 29th on the list. She had hoped to list the Pacific Avenue property on her application, but failed to change the address before a liquor control board deadline.

She speculates that other entrepreneurs used the Pacific Avenue property on their applications in hopes of securing a rental, lease or other agreement once the lottery was complete.

Perez said, and her real estate broker confirms, that she has signed an agreement to purchase the property, which now hosts an auto-repair shop and office/house.

Representatives of the businesses listed in the lottery results as winning the right to operate from the location were not available for comment Friday.

“I am disappointed that special consideration wasn’t given to people that have been operating for three years,” Perez said Friday.

“The whole thing is a mess,” she said. “I’m just really upset over the whole thing. It’s just not fair.”

A similar anomaly occurred in the selection of applicants from Gig Harbor. Of 15 successful names on the list for Pierce County at-large, 12 are at 5775 Soundview Drive. The Liquor Control Board will decide, as in all cases, which applicants receive licenses.

David Moore might disagree with Christina Perez concerning the fairness of the selection process.

Tumwater was granted one license, seven people applied and Moore’s MooreHempCo won.

Recreational cannabis, Moore said this week, “has been a big part of my life for quite some time.”

He previously operated a Thurston County store that sold hemp-related products, and now, he said, “We’re going with a different feel. We want to go with a little bit of class. We’ll discuss with the Liquor Control Board what other products we can sell.”

He said he and his wife Ruth will invest their life savings in the new business.

“We’re using my retirement and everything we have,” Moore said. We’re pretty confident that we can get up and running with what we have available. This is a great opportunity, but it’s a greater responsibility to earn the public’s trust and to make it work.”

The state’s 15 licensing investigators will begin checking the backgrounds of successful applicants on Monday, and more than 50 enforcement officers will begin making site visits soon, said board spokesman Carpenter.

He also said he remains confident that retail sales of marijuana and cannabis-related products will go on sale in the state come July.

C.R. Roberts: 253-597-8535