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Not quite ready for retail pot

With retail marijuana stores slowly opening around the state, Grays Harbor residents will likely be waiting a month or more before the first one opens in this county.

The closest operating store to the Harbor is currently 420 Carpenter in Lacey, which opened Friday, July 11, limiting customers to five grams per purchase at $25 per gram. That’s about twice the going rate at most medical marijuana dispensaries and even more expensive than what’s being charged through the black market, where the going rate is between $7 to $10 per gram.

More than likely, the first retail store to open locally could be 3M’s of Grays Harbor in Porter, which is owned by Josh Miller of Satsop and is targeting Aug. 15 for an opening date. That will be after an Aug. 11 public hearing in front of the county Planning Commission, when, barring any unforeseen circumstances, Miller should get a thumbs-up. The hearing is at 6:30 p.m. in the County Administration Building, 100 W. Broadway in Montesano.

A store in Aberdeen, which has cleared most its hurdles with the city, is also working through the process with the state Liquor Control Board. It is located off Wishkah Avenue, in a small, commercailly zoned building located behind the Baskin-Robbins ice cream parlor.

The store is also not yet ready in Ocean Shores. The pending applicant, Ryan Kunkel of the Seattle area, spoke to the Ocean Shores City Council in June and said he was hoping to open at the current chosen location, the Zimmerman Building at Ocean Shores Boulevard.

Hoquiam still has a ban on marijuana businesses.

Grays Harbor County planning official Curt Crites, who has been working closely with Miller and other legal marijuana producer, processor and retail applicants — believes, based on what he’s seen and heard — that Miller may be the first to get his retail operation up and running.

“I would put my money on him,” Crites said last week.

Crites also said that one of the winners in the lottery for the county’s three at-large stores has sold the rights to that license to a group that is targeting the mostly vacant lot across the street from the Central Park 7-Eleven. The lot currently has a medical marijuana dispensary along with the bikini barista stand “Twin Cups” operating there. But that proposed operation will need to build a permanent building there first, and “it’ll take awhile” for it to get up and running, Crites said.

Meanwhile, the county did see its second legal producer and processor approved by the Liquor Control Board two weeks ago.

A company calling itself Growth Industries has been approved to start its operation, also in rural Porter, as a Tier 2 producer, meaning it can grow plants in up to 7,000 square feet of space.

That operation just happens to be located less than a mile from Miller’s planned retail pot shop, just down Highway 12. It is owned by John Cushman, who purchased the rural property in 2012. Cushman did not return several phone calls and could not be reached for comment.

“If we’ve got a grower that’s 1,500 feet away from me, it’s definitely not a problem,” said Miller with a chuckle.

Miller said he will be getting his initial order of marijuana from an operation out of the Port of Raymond, but plans to work with other local growers as they come on line. Of the more than 2,600 applications by potential producers/processors, only 106 had been approved by the state as of last week. One of those is Pacific Canna Clones, which was just approved to begin producing on Ocean Beach Road outside Hoquiam, the county’s third approved legal grower and counting.

“And only one or two of those have harvested and are on their second cycles,” noted Miller, adding that retail stores will likely be dealing with shortages through the summer until more growers are shipping product.

Just down the road in Elma, the Elma City Council wrangled with the legal marijuana issue at its meeting on July 21. While the city recently extended it moratorium on medical marijuana operations another six months, Mayor Dave Osgood believes the city council may take a different tack when it comes to legal operations under the jurisdiction of I-502, which was overwhelmingly approved by state and county voters.

An applicant to grow legal marijuana is targeting an address at 80 Marion Road, across the highway from Elma’s downtown core, but within city limits.

“They’re going to discuss the situation,” Osgood said of the city council. “The state put it on our backs to say, ‘Yes.’ … I don’t think it will have a lot of impact on our city.”

In a memo to the city council and Osgood dated June 12, Elma City Attorney Dan Glenn notes that numerous other municipalities in the state are now being sued for their outright bans and refusal to implement I-502.

“We don’t want to spend a bunch of our taxpayers’ money to fight that,” said Osgood.

On Tuesday, July 22, Elma attorney Chris Crew plans to hand-deliver a lawsuit to the Bonney Lake City Council at its scheduled meeting. The lawsuit is seeking $2.5 million in damages in response to the moratorium on I-502 businesses passed by the City Council in October of 2013. Crew represents Saranjit Bassi, who was awarded an I-502 retail license by the state, and intended to open the doors of his marijuana retail store July 1st along with other license holders, but was denied a business permit by the city of Bonney Lake as a result of their Moratorium.

Crew’s lawsuit against the City of Bonney Lake comes on the heels of a similar suit filed last month against the City of Wenatchee by attorney Hilary Bricken, who anticipates challenging her case against the city “all the way up” to the state Supreme Court. That suit garnered attention from the ACLU, which has vowed to intervene in the case on the side of I-502 plaintiffs if issues of federal law arise.

Another similar lawsuit was brought against the City of Fife only a few days ago on July 16. In that lawsuit, plaintiff Tedd Weatherbee claims that his constitutional rights were violated by Fife’s moratorium.

“The common thread that runs through all of these lawsuits is that the state awarded each of these people something worth a million dollars,” Crew stated.

Crew went on to say that “every reasonable businessman would fight tooth-and-nail against a city ordinance designed to make their million-dollar award worthless.”