The results are in, and the losers far outnumber the winners in the Edmonds, Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace area. Out of 59 applicants for the coveted retail licenses to sell marijuana products in our area, only four will receive them: JT Retail and Retail Marijuana in Edmonds, Purps in Mountlake Terrace, and Hempspot in Lynnwood.
It’s been a long road since Washington voters approved Initiative 502 in November 2012, and it took the Liquor Control Board several additional months of hard work to hammer out the framework and rules for how legal marijuana would operate in our state.
Ultimately, the board identified three major categories of marijuana-related businesses. Producers (i.e., growers) would operate farms to grow the product, processors would package and refine the raw product into various forms suitable for retail sale, and retailers would sell these to the general public. The board put no limits on the number of potential licenses for processors and producers, largely because these would operate as wholesale-only businesses that would typically locate in areas zoned for these purposes.
But retail businesses were another story. Because they would be more visible, operating mostly as storefronts in areas accessible to and regularly frequented by the general public, the board developed an allocation formula limiting the number of licenses available for individual jurisdictions. The formula was patterned after the one used to allocate liquor store locations, and was based on criteria such as population size and density. It resulted in 334 retail licenses to be made available statewide. For our area, Lynnwood and Edmonds were allocated two retail outlets each. Mountlake Terrace got one.
In addition, the board issued an array of restrictions on where marijuana-related businesses could locate including establishing a 1,000-foot buffer zone around schools, parks, community centers and other facilities considered sensitive.
With this framework in place, a 30-day application period opened last November. By the time it closed on Dec. 20, 2013, almost 4,000 applications had been received statewide for all three classes of licenses. But because the number of retail applicants far exceeded the allocation numbers, the Board was faced with the question of how to best winnow down the list and ultimately select who would be granted licenses to sell retail marijuana products.
The applications were first subjected to a detailed screening including a background review, which looked at such things as past convictions for criminal activity. Many were eliminated because their proposed location was within the 1,000-foot buffer. Local jurisdictions also had the opportunity to submit comments and recommendations on potential applicants from their areas.
This screening shortened the list considerably, and some jurisdictions ended up with fewer retail applicants than they were allocated. For jurisdictions where the number of remaining applicants exceeded the allocated number, a lottery was conducted, with the winners being offered the coveted retail marijuana licenses.
For our area, the number of approved retail applicants for Lynnwood and Edmonds did not exceed the allocation, so no lottery was conducted. One applicant remained for the two available licenses for Lynnwood: Hempspot plans to locate at 20007 44th Ave. W. Two Edmonds applicants survived the screening for the two allocated licenses: JT Retail and Retail Marijuana plan to locate at 23329 and 22324 Highway 99, respectively.
But in Mountlake Terrace, 16 applicants survived the background check and went into a lottery for the one available license. The lottery winner: Purps, who plans to locate at 21215 52nd Ave W.
Now that licenses have been approved, all that remains is for the local governments to finalize their respective frameworks for allowing these businesses to operate and issue the necessary business licenses. But with the lottery behind us, it’s a good bet that we’ll see our first legal pot stores opening sometime this summer.
— By Larry Vogel