Washington's first state-licensed marijuana store, Top Shelf Cannabis in Bellingham, opened at 8 a.m. today, followed by a handful of other shops in Seattle, Spokane, Kelso, and Prosser. They are among the 25 businesses that received retail licenses from the Washington State Liquor Control Board (LCB) yesterday. Most of them were not quite ready to start selling pot today, but some may open later this week or month. The LCB intends to award a total of 334 retail licenses statewide, although that plan looks iffy in light of temporary or permanent bans adopted by nearly 100 cities and counties.
The first customer at Top Shelf was Cale Holdsworth, a visitor from Kansas who bought two grams for $26.50—quite a bargain compared to the steep prices expected due to a shortage of legal pot. By contrast, the Seattle Post- Intelligencer reports that Deborah Greene, the first customer at Cannabis City, Seattle's first (and so far only) recreational pot shop, paid $160 for four grams, or $40 per gram. The paper's cannabis correspondent, Jake Ellison, predicts that typical prices at state-licensed outlets will range from $15 to $25 per gram, a lot more than what their illegal and quasi-legal competitors are charging.
Until the LCB implements new rules for edibles, Washington's stores will be selling buds only, and they won't have much to sell. The LCB started licensing growers in March. So far, according to a list it posted today, it has granted just 86 applications, with more than 2,500 others still pending. In addition to the shortage of legal growers, high taxes and and regulatory costs are pushing prices up.
Although customers lined up today for the novelty of buying legal pot, the new shops probably will have a hard time competing with dispensaries and black-market dealers. "My old supplier just texted me," Deborah Greene, Cannabis City's first buyer, told The Seattle Times. "[He] said, 'I saw you on TV. Now I know why you're not calling me.'" She may have been joking, but a lot will hinge on whether that sort of anecdote sounds plausible a year from now.