The only legal retail marijuana store between Aberdeen and Thurston County will be located along Highway 12 in Porter. But despite all the summer traffic it will see during tourist season, it likely won’t be open until around Sept. 1 due to county regulations.
Meanwhile, Grays Harbor County has it’s first legal marijuana production operation, as a business in Copalis Crossing has been approved by the state Liquor Control Board to begin growing plants that will eventually be sold to processors and retailers.
East County resident Josh Miller, who last month won the state-conducted lottery for one of the county’s much-coveted six retail licenses, is busy working on refurbishing a 1,200-square-foot space inside the old Porter Grocery Store building that he will convert into his retail marijuana business called 3 M’s of Grays Harbor.
He had hoped to have it open by July 4th, but just found out Monday that because there has not been a business in that location for more than a year — and because of the nature of his business — he must get a conditional use permit from the county, a process that requires a public hearing and should take at least 60 days to complete. Since compliance with local business regulations is a condition of LCB approval, that permit must come before he gets his official license. Once his store is approved by the Liquor Control Board, Miller will have to buy his inventory from licensed growers and processors. So far, the state has only approved 50 of the almost 2,700-plus grower applications and 42 of the more than 1,900 processor applications. One of the few that is approved is a growing operation out of Copalis Crossing called Typhoon Yolanda on Ocean Beach Road. It is owned by Lucas an Melinda Malate, according to public records from the Liquor Control Board.
Miller originally wanted to open his retail store in Montesano and then just outside Elma, but was rebuffed by Monte city officials and county zoning requirements. His Porter location was originally targeted for a retail store by Elma attorney Chris Crew, who also applied for a retail license but finished well down the draw list in the state’s lottery last month.
With Crews’ blessing, Miller opened negotiations with the owner of the Porter property, recently signed a lease and is fervently working to bring the building up to compliance with county building codes and the strict LCB guidelines in regards to security. He had his first phone interview with his assigned Liquor Control Board inspector last Friday. Miller has some hurdles to clear before getting approval, such as bringing the long-vacant building up to code and rewiring the entire business as thieves had ripped out all the wiring throughout the structure to sell for scrap. Miller has a Thurston County electrician coming in this week to do that work.
“When he came and looked at it, the electrician told me they might have gotten $100 to $150 worth of scrap out of here and it’s going to cost $10,000 to replace all the wiring,” Miller said. “They went up into the attic and cut everything from where it goes down into the walls and yanked it all out. It was ridiculous.”
Until the wiring is up and running current, Miller is running all his power tools off a generator.
Despite that and the setback with the conditional use permit, Miller said he should now have his store open by Sept. 1, though he isn’t quite sure if the Liquor Control Board’s schedule will be the same as his.
“They don’t want to get ahead of themselves is my impression,” Miller said of the state agency, noting the massive rush to the few stores that initially opened in Colorado when it legalized last year. But Miller says he got a good feeling from his first talk with the Liquor Control Board official.
“He’s not trying to make it any harder on me,” Miller said. “He told me it’s his job to make sure we do everything correctly so I can do this (as soon as possible).” Miller was not thrilled to find out about the requirement for a conditional use permit, but was philosophical.
“It sucks, but at least it will allow me more time to get everything right and make the outside look just perfect before I open,” he said Monday afternoon.
Miller is also dealing with other issues, such as finding an internet provider in the rural area that can provide him speeds fast enough for his business requirements, installing 24 high-definition security cameras, building a handicap-accessible ramp into the store, installing a security door to buzz in prospective customers and painting the exterior.
“It’s going to be barn red with off-white trim,” Miller said.
Miller said dozens of neighbors and local residents have stopped by, thinking he might be working on opening up the grocery store again.
“By law, I have to tell them what I’m doing with the space,” he said. “And it’s clearly posted, but I haven’t had a single negative comment from anybody.”