Legal marijuana goes on sale in Washington

Bellingham HeraldJuly 8, 2014 

Hundreds of customers were on hand – along with TV stations and a food truck – as Top Shelf Cannabis opened Tuesday, July 8, the first store in Bellingham to legally sell recreational marijuana.

Employees opened the doors at Top Shelf, 3863 Hannegan Road in Henifin Plaza, a little after 8 a.m. Cale Holdsworth, 29, of Abilene, Kansas was first in line. He and his girlfriend were in town for a grandfather’s 84th birthday and family reunion.

“We expected larger crowds. We thought there would be campers and revelers,” said Holdsworth, who said he is an advocate of legalization and the responsible use of marijuana. “It’s a momentous occasion.”

His girlfriend, 24-year-old Sarah Gorton, also of Abilene, was happy to be among the first in line.

“This is completely new to me,” she said. “I’ve never been in a shop where I can buy my favorite thing.”

The couple bought two grams of a strain called OG’s Pearl, which retails for $19.82 ($26.50 with taxes included) for a two-gram package. They planned to try out their purchase at home and said they know it’s illegal to carry it across state lines.

Pot prices were expected to reach $25 a gram or higher on the first day of sales – twice what people pay in the state’s unregulated medical marijuana dispensaries, according to The Associated Press. That was largely due to the short supply of legally produced pot in the state. Although more than 2,600 people applied to become licensed growers, fewer than 100 have been approved – and only about a dozen were ready to harvest this month.

At Top Shelf, customers had to show an ID before they were allowed inside, to prove they are over age 21. Once in, they looked at strains of marijuana, each with its own description, in a glass display case. “Sniff jars” were available but no one could handle the dried marijuana except employees.

The display case also had glass pipes and bongs for sale.

A second store, 2020 Solutions, planned to open Tuesday but had to delay its first day of business due to regulatory problems with both of its state-licensed processors.

Voters approved Initiative 502 in 2012, legalizing recreational marijuana in Washington for those 21 years and older.

The state Liquor Control Board issued recreational licenses to the first 24 retailers, including Top Shelf, via email early Monday, July 7. The early-morning licensing allowed retailers to be able to sell pot starting at 8 a.m. 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.

The state has allocated 15 retail licenses to Whatcom County – six in Bellingham, one each in Ferndale and Lynden, and seven others countywide – but Top Shelf was the only one ready on opening day.

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

Washington law allows the sale of up to an ounce of dried marijuana, 16 ounces of pot-infused solids, 72 ounces of pot-infused liquids or 7 grams of concentrated marijuana, like hashish, to adults over 21. Top Shelf, however, did not have any products for sale besides dried marijuana.

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