One Bellingham retail marijuana store to open Tuesday, July 8

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJuly 7, 2014 

UPDATE: Marijuana sales at 2020 Solutions have been delayed due to problems with state-licensed processors, according to an email sent late July 7.

BELLINGHAM - Two stores in Bellingham will be among the first in Washington state to sell recreational marijuana to customers starting Tuesday, July 8.

The state Liquor Control Board issued recreational licenses to the first 24 retailers - Top Shelf Cannabis and 2020 Solutions in Bellingham among them - via email early Monday, July 7.

Top Shelf Cannabis will open its store at 8 a.m. Tuesday at 3863 Hannegan Road, Unit 107, in Henifin Plaza.

2020 Solutions, 2018 Iron St., also will open at 8 a.m.

"They're saying we are ready to go," said Aaron Nelson, senior vice president of operations for 2020 Solutions, which is owned by Whatcom County residents Aubree and Troy Lozano.

John Evich, a Top Shelf investor, expressed excitement for Tuesday's opening.

"I cannot wait until tomorrow morning," Evich said Monday. "We've definitely been right out front blazing a trail. We're pioneering an industry. We've had a lot of bumps and hiccups along the way, and we've made it happen."

Pot retailers are allowed to be open from 8 a.m. to midnight.

Bellingham resident Tom Beckley owns Top Shelf, which has as its other investor pharmacist and former Whatcom County Councilman Ward Nelson.

Those two are the only retail applicants in Whatcom County to have received their licenses from the liquor board, which is implementing Initiative 502.

Voters approved the state measure in 2012, legalizing recreational marijuana in Washington for those 21 years and older.

The most public piece of that measure will roll out Tuesday with the opening of the first of what ultimately will be 334 pot stores in the state.

"Come on down," 2020's Aaron Nelson said. "We're staffed up to make sure everybody has a safe and comfortable experience."

There have been concerns about a pot shortage as stores open in the early days of the fledgling industry. Both Bellingham retailers said they've secured enough marijuana for the first day.

Aaron Nelson said 2020 will have enough pot for a minimum of 1,000 customers. Its marijuana is coming from a grower in Peshastin, in central Washington.

"We definitely will have enough product," he said.

Aaron Nelson said Monday that the exact price was yet to be determined, but he expected it to be $20 to $25 per gram on Tuesday.

There have been complaints and concerns that prices in the now-legal market will be too high compared to the black market. The initiative tacked on a 25 percent tax each for growers, processors and retailers legally doing business.

Despite that, Aaron Nelson said he expected people would shop in places that offered comfort and were above-board.

"We're definitely not trying to compete with the black market. The idea behind 502 is to get rid of that black market," he said.

Partly to address complaints about too-high prices, Evich said that Top Shelf Cannabis will sell its first 50 to 100 grams for just under $10 a gram.

The other reason was to acknowledge voters.

"That's basically a thank you to the people of Washington state for approving I-502," he said.

After those first grams, the going price will be $12 to $25 per gram at Top Shelf, according to Evich.

Top Shelf has secured about 23 pounds of pot, some of that will be as blunts and joints, for Tuesday. It will offer about 31 strains of marijuana, which will come from growers in Bremerton, Seattle and Spokane, Evich said.

2020 Solutions was notified at 1:17 a.m. Monday that it had received its license, while Top Shelf was emailed at 1:19 a.m.

The early-morning licensing allowed retailers to be able to sell pot starting at 8 a.m. when they open their doors. Previously, they worried they wouldn't be able to do that because of a 24-hour quarantine required by the state for accountability purposes.

Once the state issues a retailer a license, the grower-processor quarantines the pot meant for that store for 24 hours. When that period ends, the items can then be transported to the store to be inventoried and entered into the state's computerized traceability system.

More marijuana retail stores should be opening throughout the county.

The state allocated 15 retail licenses to Whatcom County - six in Bellingham, one each in Ferndale and Lynden, and seven others countywide.

Top Shelf Cannabis and 2020 Solutions were among the businesses selected by lottery for a chance at the six coveted retail licenses that the state allocated for Bellingham.

Skagit County doesn't have any retail marijuana stores opening Tuesday. The nearest ones south of Bellingham are in Arlington and on Camano Island.

Washington state will be the second in the nation to open recreational pot stores. Colorado was the first when it did so to huge crowds on Jan. 1.

Evich didn't know how many customers to expect on the first day, partly because it was occurring on a Tuesday morning.

"Everyone I know works," he said. "I would hope there's at least a couple of hundred people there, but we'll see."

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

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