Three weeks after deadline for pot licenses, number of applicants still increasing

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJanuary 15, 2014 

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 licenses to grow, process and sell recreational marijuana in Washington state continue to increase - three weeks after the window to do so closed.

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.

That's because the state Liquor Control Board is still going through applications that came in by the deadline, according to agency spokesman Brian Smith.

"We still have a backlog. We're trying to sift through them," Smith said Tuesday, Jan. 14, after the agency released the most recent numbers showing that applications statewide hit 7,016.

That's 397 more than the previous week.

Applications for would-be Whatcom County pot businesses also went up, though at a much slower rate since the state started releasing weekly figures in December.

So far, there are a total of 309 applications countywide:

-- 126 growers.

-- 107 processors.

-- 76 retailers, including one that lists its city as Bellingham but its actual address puts it in Alger.

That's 14 more than the 295 total applications for the previous week.

At least one more weekly batch of figures is expected to be released.

Investigators already have started reviewing applicants, and the liquor board plans to issue growing and processing licenses in late February and early March.

Licenses for stores will be issued later, with expected opening dates in June.

Not all applicants will get a license.

For one, the board has allotted 15 pot stores for all of Whatcom County and 334 retail outlets statewide.

There will be a lottery in places where the number of proposed stores outstrip the total allowed. No date has been set for that lottery.

The state initiative didn't cap the number of growers or processors.

Applicants also 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 as well as make sure that proposed locations meet the 1,000-foot buffer required between schools, libraries, transit centers and other places where young people gather.

That would rule out the two businesses that applied for a pot retail license at 1305 Cornwall Ave. in Bellingham because it's too close to a transit center, according to Jason Loeb, the Windermere broker overseeing the lease on the property.

Then there's the other issue.

"The owner isn't interested," Loeb said of leasing the space to a marijuana business.

Liquor board officials also said applications without a legitimate address will be disqualified.

So that would include businesses that applied without having a lease in place, applications with addresses within buffer zones, and people who think that they can run a pot business out of their homes.

"We're not going to issue any licenses to residences," said Mikhail Carpenter, a liquor board spokesman.

Exactly how many of the applicants could get a license is still being determined.

"We have to get a handle on what we actually have," Smith said.

MAP OF MARIJUANA BUSINESS APPLICATIONS

Note: These are only proposed locations. Many are expected to get rejected by the state Liquor Control Board. To view a larger map, click on the icon in the upper right corner.

—Darker green data points mean details about the proposed business were released in the past week.

—Pins represent would-be growers.

—Circles represent would-be processors.

—Orange buildings represent would-be retailers.

Reach Kie Relyea at 360-715-2234 or kie.relyea@bellinghamherald.com .

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