State finishes processing backlog of applications for pot businesses

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJanuary 29, 2014 

The state Liquor Control Board has essentially finished going through the backlog of applications for licenses to grow, process and sell recreational marijuana in Washington - five weeks after the application window closed.

"This is roughly what the amount is going to be. I wouldn't imagine it's going to grow too much more," board spokesman Mikhail Carpenter said Tuesday, Jan. 28, after the agency released weekly numbers showing that applications statewide grew by three to 7,047.

Applications for would-be Whatcom County pot businesses went up by one in the last week, reaching 310.

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 the state has been processing the mass of applications since then.

The liquor control board seems to be done with this phase.

"We're pretty much there," Carpenter said.

Investigators 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.

The liquor board is sticking with that timeline even as it continues to study a Jan. 16 formal opinion by state Attorney General Bob Ferguson stating that local governments could ban or restrict recreational pot businesses - basically opting out of the initiative approved by voters.

It was still unknown Tuesday how the opinion will affect the board's issuing of licenses, although some applicants have indicated they would sue if they're granted licenses from the state but are then barred by local authorities from doing business.

"We're still assessing the options of how to proceed with that," Carpenter said.

Not all applicants will get a license, given that the board has allotted 15 pot stores for all of Whatcom County and 334 retail outlets statewide. The board has received 78 retail applications for just Whatcom County.

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.

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.

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.

To see a larger map, click here.

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

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