Marijuana

UW marijuana study shows no need to expand growing space in state

Nick Cihlar, co-owner of Subdued Excitement Inc., checks his plants at his marijuana growing company in Ferndale April 13, 2015. A new University of Washington study says the state has enough legal growing operations to meet demand, so applications for new ones likely will be denied.
Nick Cihlar, co-owner of Subdued Excitement Inc., checks his plants at his marijuana growing company in Ferndale April 13, 2015. A new University of Washington study says the state has enough legal growing operations to meet demand, so applications for new ones likely will be denied. pdwyer@bhamherald.com

Estimates show we have more than enough marijuana growing for pot consumers in Washington state — so applications to expand grow operations have been or will be denied.

That’s the message this week from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board.

“The amount of marijuana allowed to be grown by state-licensed producers in Washington is enough to satisfy both the medical and recreational markets,” the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board noted in a news release this week.

That statement mirrors the conclusion reached by a study by the University of Washington Cannabis Law and Policy Project.

The state now licenses 12 million square feet of “canopy,” the space within which marijuana is grown either indoors or outdoors. The UW study reported that 10 million square feet would be sufficient to meet current market requirements for both recreational and medicinal marijuana.

And so: “Due to sufficient canopy the WSLCB will not process second and third producer license applications,” the board said in a letter to licensees.

Existing licensed producers can still expand, the board said, but only by acquiring (up to a total of three) licenses through the purchase and assumption of another existing license.

“Ten million square feet is adequate,” said Liquor and Cannabis Board spokesman Mikhail Carpenter on Thursday.

“The one thing that’s hard for anybody to really get a handle on is how much of the canopy is in use,” he said. “While we have licensed 12 million feet, that doesn’t mean we have 12 million square feet of marijuana growing at any one time.”

The agency will continue to issue new licenses, he said, “but I just don’t know how fast.”

No current licenses will be revoked due to oversupply.

Among other items noted in the UW report:

▪ The canopy needed to supply the medical marijuana market in Washington “is between 1.7 million and 2 million square feet.”

▪ “It is difficult, if not impossible, to know exactly how many dispensaries there are in Washington state or to verify the numbers provided to us by dispensaries.”

▪ “Nearly all the calculations in this report require some measure of estimation, so we recommend that our conclusion not be seen as has a hard conclusion but rather as a broad estimate.”

▪ “We are inclined to believe that WSLCB’s current grow canopy license limits are sufficient to supply both the recreational and medical marijuana markets.”

▪ “It is believed that many dispensaries have closed in recent months. … Because it is nearly impossible to know the exact number of dispensaries in Washington, particularly since that number is in flux, we believe it prudent to offer a range of potential conclusions.”

▪ The average marijuana retailer sells 9.55 pounds of marijuana “flower” per month.

▪ Estimated average monthly sales at 273 dispensaries statewide total 2,607 pounds of marijuana; average yearly sales come in at 31,285 pounds.

▪ Sales at dispensaries are estimated to include 60 percent flower, 22 percent concentrate, and 18 percent edibles. At recreational shops, the figures show 71.8 percent flower, 18.3 percent concentrates and 9.46 percent edibles.

▪ The average price for a gram of marijuana in Washington is $9.80.

▪ 42.6 percent of commercial marijuana is grown indoors.

C.R. Roberts: 253-597-8535

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