With Washington state’s first retail pot stores set to open next week, it appears that Edmonds customers will have to go outside our community to buy their weed. Why? The two applicants who received initial approval to operate in Edmonds now find themselves rejected for being too close to daycare centers.
“Back when we started planning for this, the rules were different,” says Sierra Sue Conley, who was initially approved to operate Retail Marijuana in a storefront at 22324 Highway 99. “At first the rule was that we needed to be more than 1,000 feet from these facilities (e.g., schools, daycare centers, etc.), measured by the route people would walk to get there. We located our proposed store based on this. Now it’s changed to 1,000 feet as the crow flies, which puts us too close (381 feet) to the Trike Stop Infant Care Center. It’s really tough to see all the time, money and work we’ve put in go right out the window.”
Conley added that Edmonds poses particular challenges due to its relatively dense population and many schools, daycares and other facilities, all of which must be more than 1,000 feet from any marijuana-related business. “Where you can locate is very limited,” she says, “and in many cases there’s simply no available space in these locations to set up a store.”
Edmonds’ other approved applicant, J.T. Retail, is caught in a similar situation. Set to open in the abandoned gun shop at 23329 Highway 99, the as-the-crow-flies rule puts them 813 feet from the Edmonds Lutheran Church daycare facility. Other objections to their proposed location are based on the proximity to Whirly-Ball and Another Castle video store and arcade. Arcades are also subject to the 1,000-foot-buffer rule.
Interestingly, the problems with J.T. Retail’s application were not caught at the state level, but rather during local review at the City of Edmonds.
As part of the approval process, the state submits to local governments the names and application materials of applicants proposing to operate within their jurisdictional boundaries. This gives the local government a chance to respond with comments or objections. Edmonds Development Services Director Shane Hope outlined the city’s objections to J.T. Retail’s license application in a May 21 letter to the Washington State Liquor Control Board, which oversees the licensing process.
“The old gun shop seemed like such a great spot,” said J.T. Retail’s Judith Tate. “It’s a very secure building with bars on the windows and doors. Right now it’s sitting there boarded up and abandoned, a target for transients. Wouldn’t it be better to have a business operating there?”
Tate also points out that Whirly-Ball “serves alcohol” in its facility, and that while Another Castle has some arcade machines in its store, they are “primarily a retail game seller, not an arcade.” She has retained a Seattle-based attorney to represent her; My Edmonds News attempted to contact the attorney, but our calls were not returned.
So what’s next for Edmonds customers who want to be good citizens and support local business by purchasing their pot locally?
“Right now we’re swamped with issuing licenses and getting the businesses that meet all the guidelines up and running,” said Brian Smith, Liquor Control Board Communications Director. “Eventually we’ll embark on a phase 2 licensing process to address communities like Edmonds where retail stores have been allocated, but no applicants in the initial pool met all the requirements.”
Smith added that the Board has yet to work on how and when phase 2 would happen. “There’s a lot of details to work out,” he said, and it will likely be “months, possibly into next year” before it happens.
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel