BELLINGHAM - The number of applications for marijuana stores in Bellingham outnumbers the city's Woods Coffee shops, Starbucks cafés and Haggen grocery stores - combined.
Last week marked the deadline for the first wave of pot entrepreneurs to apply for a license and get in on Washington's newest industry.
On Christmas Eve, the state Liquor Control Board released names and addresses of more than 3,700 businesses that submitted paperwork in the initial one-month window for applications.
A total of 179 businesses, or 4.8 percent of the statewide total, hope to open in Whatcom County. By comparison, about 3 percent of Washingtonians live here.
But the initial numbers might be misleading for a couple of reasons.
In the eyes of the state, to grow marijuana and to process it are separate things. So if someone wants to do both, separate paperwork gets filed. Canndo, for example, a grower-processor proposed north of Nugents Corner, counts as two businesses.
And at least around here, that's much more common than a business like Sugar Magnolia Manor, proposed in the Sudden Valley area, that would only grow marijuana. Or Crescendo Chocolate, in north Bellingham, which plans to process it. Each of those counts as one business.
Twenty-five retailers hope to open within Bellingham city limits. But many of those will get rejected. The state announced it would allow only six Bellingham stores in 2014. The number could still grow in the future. Seven "at-large" stores will be allowed in Whatcom County; Ferndale and Lynden will get one retail outlet each.
Many of the proposed shops in Bellingham, for now, are clustered together. In a space of two blocks near the Samish Way motel strip, five stores have been proposed; four more plan to open near James and Kentucky streets; and eight businesses applied for spots on Meridian Street, between the freeway and city limits.
Other store owners hope to open in Point Roberts, Blaine, Ferndale, Glacier and Maple Falls.
Investigators have already started reviewing applicants, and the state hopes to begin issuing licenses at the end of February. Applicants must undergo background checks, be residents of Washington state, and have their business areas inspected by the state.