Whatcom County marijuana business applications hit 227

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDDecember 31, 2013 

Recreational pot use

Applications for recreational marijuana businesses in Whatcom County surged in the past week - topping out at 227 growers, processors and retailers.

MATT MCDONALD — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

Applications for recreational marijuana businesses in Whatcom County surged in the past week - topping out at 227 growers, processors and retailers.

The total was 48 more than last week.

Applications hit 4,946 statewide, according to updated figures released Tuesday, Dec. 31, by the Washington State Liquor Control Board.

That's about 1,246 more than the previous week.

"We knew there'd be a lot of interest, there'd be a lot of applications," said Liquor Control Board spokesman Brian Smith.

Such a surge at the end of the application window made Smith wonder if many of the businesses would be able to meet the requirements of getting a license and be able to get up and running. He noted that doing so would require "a significant amount of capital outlay" and the ability to work "in a tightly regulated market."

"We'll see how many of those are set up to be able to have something like that," he said. "That list has some shaking out to do."

Dec. 20 was the deadline for pot entrepreneurs to apply for a license for Washington's newest industry since state voters legalized marijuana for recreational use in the November 2012 election.

But because of a backlog in putting applications into the system, the Liquor Control Board expected to release another round of figures Tuesday, Jan. 7, and possibly the following Tuesday as well.

Investigators already have 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 for at least three months prior to the filing date, and have their business areas inspected by the state.

The state also will investigate funding sources for the prospective businesses and who is connected to the licenses, according to Smith, as well as make sure that proposed locations meet the 1,000-foot buffer required between schools and other places where young people gather.

In September, the Liquor Control Board ruled that 15 stores in Whatcom County would be allowed to sell marijuana for recreational use beginning next year.

That allowed for six stores in Bellingham and one each in Lynden and Ferndale, with up to seven others throughout the county.

Applications for marijuana retail outlets for all of Whatcom County total 48 so far.

A total of 334 retail outlets will be allowed statewide, while applications for pot stores totaled 1,312.

There will be a lottery in places where the number of proposed stores outstrip the total allotted. That lottery will occur early in 2014, according to Smith.

The state initiative legalizing recreational pot in Washington limited the number of retail outlets but didn't cap the number of growers or processors.

So the state followed the lead of Colorado, which has had a "sophisticated" medical marijuana system for a number of years, Smith said.

Colorado let the market decide which pot businesses would make it, and about half were still around after 11/2 years, Smith said. Voters in Colorado also have legalized recreational marijuana and that state will be the first in the nation to sell pot in stores come Jan. 1.

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