Washington's Pot Shops Open Tomorrow, Charging High Prices for Novelty


Rainier on Pine

Early this morning the Washington State Liquor Control Board (LCB) notified about 20 license applicants that they have been approved to begin selling marijuana as early as tomorrow. At least a few pot shops plan to open their doors this week, including Cannabis City in Seattle, Kouchlock Productions in Spokane, Rainier on Pine in Tacoma, New Vansterdam in Vancouver, 2020 Solutions and Top Shelf Cannabis in Bellingham, Altitude in Prosser, and the Freedom Market in Kelso. But they won't have much to sell, since the LCB began licensing growers just a few months ago and has issued only 80 or so cultivation licenses so far, with more than 2,500 applications pending. As a result of the meager supply, the stores are expected to impose purchase limits below the one ounce that is legally allowed and charge around $25 per gram, more than twice the prices charged by medical marijuana dispensaries and black-market dealers in Washington.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter Jake Ellison argues that "legal marijuana stores won't matter much in Seattle," the state's biggest and most cannabis-friendly city, which eventually is supposed to have 21 licensed pot shops but at first will have just one:

Except for tourists and the pot curious, who will each buy a few grams at most, the appeal of state-licensed recreational marijuana won't go much farther than novelty in Seattle. Especially under the current tax and regulatory structure pushing prices up…but not just because of that.

The strongest reason is cultural: Regular users already have a cornucopia of choices and law enforcement around here has spent years getting used to marijuana as a low-priority, creating in the Emerald City something akin to an open market for cannabis.

Consequently, it's easy to get.

"Oh, you mean the scary dude skulking in the alleyway?"

Not exactly.

Just Google "deliver marijuana Seattle" or pick up a copy of The Stranger and look at the back page… and you're on your way. Or, take the afternoon off and get a medical card. Then your options for delivery or in-store shopping are nearly limitless, with hundreds of MMJ storefronts throughout Seattle.

Those dispensaries, which operate as "collective gardens" with rotating memberships, will be officially noncompliant with Seattle zoning law as of January 1. But given the LCB's slow pace in setting up the new distribution system, it seems some sort of accommodation will be necessary. "Realistically," says Alison Holcomb, who ran the campaign to legalize marijuana in Washington, "we are going to be looking at a transition period. Seattle certainly isn't going to shut down 200 dispensaries before the end of 2014." This year the state legislature considered several bills that would have shut down the dispensaries, and it is expected to take up the issue again next year. But the assumption that state-licensed retailers will be up to the task of serving patients anytime soon is looking increasingly shaky.

NEXT: 3D-Printed Semiautomatic .22 Debuts. "If you take my gun, I will simply print another one."

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  1. Wow. If they were deliberately looking to screw this up, I don’t think they could have done a better job.

    1. Yeah, I think they just see it as a new source of tax revenue–anything they get is all gravy to them. …but if the black market is still more attractive than the legal alternative, that really is sad.

      Depriving the black market of its revenue is probably the best reason to legalize.

      1. The best reason to legalize is that the government has no legal or moral basis for prohibiting adults from possessing or using any substance they choose.

        1. “Depriving the black market of its revenue is probably the best reason to legalize*.”

          *That politicians might actually pay any sort of attention to.

          1. I was thinking more in terms of your average voter (rather than your average libertarian).

            Do you really care about how black people are treated in this country? Do you want to do something about gang violence in our inner cities–other than throwing more minorities in prison–that’ll actually serve to make it much harder to recruit more gang members?

            Would you like to spend less money on law enforcement? Would you like to see less violence in our streets?

            These are the top reasons–I think–average voters support getting rid of the Drug War. I oppose the Drug War because it’s a fundamental violation of our right to make choices for ourselves, but if average voters don’t support getting rid of the Drug War for that reason, then I think they should want to get away from the black market–for all the above reasons.

            I’m not really big on creating new sources of revenue for Progressive governments like the one in Washington State either–but for the average voter out there, if they want more tax revenue? Then that’s a great reason to get rid of the black market, too.

  2. “Or, take the afternoon off and get a medical card. Then your options for delivery or in-store shopping are nearly limitless, with hundreds of MMJ storefronts throughout Seattle.”

    I’m still unclear to me as to how having a medical card (in any given state) impacts your ability to buy and own a gun.

    Those concerns would be a bigger deterrent for me. I’d rather not have law enforcement target me as a dealer because I’m on the record as having both a gun and a medical card–more so than I care about paying extra through a medical dispensary.

    If Reason staff of the commentariat would address that, I’d really appreciate it.

    1. Take this old Hit & Run post by Doherty, for instance, “Get a Medical Marijuana Card, Lose Your Second Amendment Rights”:

      “Merely having a state medical marijuana card, BATFE insists, means that you fall afoul of Sect. 922(g) of the federal criminal code (from the 1968 federal Gun Control Act), which says that anyone “who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance” is basically barred from possessing or receiving guns or ammo.

      Nevada licenses medical pot users….The Form 4473 that the BATFE requires every gun purchaser to fill out asks, “Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana?or any other controlled substance?”…..ose-your-s

      Incidentally, there’s only one potential presidential candidate from the biggest two parties that I can imagine championing a marijuana user’s Second Amendment rights at the federal level, and it isn’t Hillary Clinton.

    2. I’m still unclear to me as to how having a medical card (in any given state) impacts your ability to buy and own a gun.

      It’s a defacto admission to consuming a federally banned substance which bars you from owning a firearm.

      1. Well, like I said, not being able to buy (or maybe own) a gun would be the single biggest deterrent to getting a medical card and buying from a dispensary for a lot of people. …more so than the cost.

        So, if you go buy a gun first and get a medical card later, does that mean they can come confiscate your gun? I suspect that question hasn’t been before a court yet. …not sure I want to wait to find out.

        Was there a resolution to the case that Doherty wrote about? What was it? I can’t find any mention of it. Maybe it’s ongoing.

        Why don’t they treat people who have been prescribed Demerol or other opiates the same way? What is it about being prescribed marijuana for pain that makes it okay for the BATFA to violate a patient’s Second Amendment rights?

        Is it because cannabis is listed as a Schedule I drug? If it weren’t a Schedule I drug, would the BATFA lose its ability to violate a patient’s Second Amendment rights on that basis?

        Maybe there needs to be a lawsuit targeting the scheduling. If people are being prescribed cannabis for problems like pain, during chemo, etc., and it’s been proven effective in treating such symptoms, then how can the DEA and FDA defend cannabis’ Schedule I status as having “no currently accepted medical use”?

        Enquiring minds want to know!

      2. I found this update to Doherty’s original post:…..juana-lice

        Looks like it was all bad news for patients’ Second Amendment rights.

        We really need to reschedule cannabis already!

  3. As a result of the meager supply

    A meager supply? In a tightly controlled marketplace with production caps and five year plans?

    This are unprecedented!

    Next thing you’ll try to tell me is there are cues for empty shelves.

  4. Novelty? How is something that’s been going on for 6 months in the civilized parts of the world novel?

  5. Cannabis City

    Oh dear gawds, we are doomed! Why can no one think of the children?

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