The Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) completed the first lottery for retail licenses in the state’s new cannabis market. Stores selling legal weed to adults 21 years of age and older could open by July. Others face legal hurdles that could take months and costly legal battles. More than 1,100 applied for the proposed 334 retail slots across the state.
The WSLCB gave the list of applicants who had passed a cursory review to Kraght-Snell, a Seattle accounting firm that manages the Washington Lottery. From April 21 through 25, Kraght-Snell held 75 drawings, organized by jurisdiction, to order applicants for a more intensive investigation. Forty-seven jurisdictions had fewer applicants than allotted stores and didn’t need lotteries. The lottery was monitored by the state treasurer’s office.
The WSLCB will now look at the applicant’s criminal record, investor information and business plan and the location and security of the property. After a final inspection and approval, the business will be given a license by the state. If an applicant fails they will be given a chance to appeal, but the next applicant number moves up and begins getting vetted.
Many cities have welcomed the process and are preparing zoning to integrate cannabis licensees into their communities. Other cities have passed moratoriums or bans with dubious legal standing, but enough force to keep stores closed in parts of the state for the rest of the year.
Gig Harbor has one such moratorium running until October. It’s jeopardizing local businessman Tedd Wetherbee’s hopes of opening a store called The Gallery.
“I’ve spent almost two full years of my life on this, to get slot number two and number nine out of 17 is a personal triumph,” Wetherbee told the press. “But it’s of absolutely no use if local municipalities continue to chose what state laws they enact and which ones they don’t.”
Applicants already disqualified are upset at the process. Some were informed generally why they’d been dropped, but told if they wanted specifics they’d need to pay for an appeals process. Many are considering lawsuits against the WSLCB or various municipalities.
The WSLCB’s rollout of its part in I-502, the initiative which legalized use and sales, has been ridiculed in comparison to the relatively smooth openings of shops in Colorado, which also approved recreational cannabis during the2012 election. Some blame a flawed law, others a bureaucracy unaccustomed to pot.
Like Washington, most of Colorado’s stores have had to go through a longer process. But even Colorado has begun approving newer shops from outside the medical industry, the recreational roll-out in Washington has just begun.
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