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Pot-growing wannabes in 34 of 39 counties in state
After the first week of applications for pot business licenses, it’s clear people want to grow weed all over the state. And a number of cities, including Seattle and Tacoma, already have more retail applicants that allotted stores, likely triggering lotteries for those licenses.
Seattle Times staff reporter
After the first week of applications for pot-business licenses, it’s apparent people want to grow weed all over Washington state.
Aspiring growers are seeking licenses in 34 of 39 counties, from Benton to Yakima, in a total of 444 applications.
The counties without growing applicants — Adams, Asotin, Columbia, Garfield and Wahkiakum — have a combined population of just more than 50,000.
Retail stores were not quite as popular, with 158 applicants for 334 state stores. But a number of cities, including Seattle and Tacoma, already have more retail-store applicants than allotted stores, likely triggering state-run lotteries for those licenses.
An additional 327 applicants sought processing licenses.
While there is no cap on the number of growing and processing licenses, the abundance of potential growers could lead to changes in the state’s plans.
The state has set rules for 2 million square feet of growing space. But a glance at the growing applications suggests that if all growers used the maximum space allowed under the licenses they’re seeking, the state could have about 6 million square feet of pot production.
That could lead to a proportionate reduction in the maximum growing space for all licensees, according to state officials.
Or, said Alison Holcomb, chief author of Washington’s new pot law, state officials could increase the cap on production space, with the assumption that some businesses will fail or grow less than permitted.
It’s premature to speculate on what might happen, said Mikhail Carpenter, a spokesman for the state Liquor Control Board, the agency charged with implementing the law.
“This is raw data. Until we do interviews and have operating plans it’s hard to know people’s intentions,” Carpenter said.
Some applicants might not qualify after the state conducts background checks, verifies residency and examines operating plans. And then, local jurisdictions might try to ban or block pot businesses, which could further reduce the number of growers.
The state will take applications submitted through Dec. 19. Some entrepreneurs have been holding back. John Davis, CEO of two Seattle medical-marijuana dispensaries, said he plans to apply for retail licenses on Dec. 6, the one-year anniversary of the state’s legal pot law taking effect.
Despite the possibility of a lottery in Seattle and other cities, Davis said he felt confident about getting licensed.
A longtime pot activist, Davis said he recognized just a couple of names of businesses seeking stores in Seattle. And he wondered if some, with names such as Cannabis City, would be able to get bank accounts.
“Naming your business ‘Cannabis City’ might sound cool, but it’s problematic if you know anything about the industry,” said Davis, referring to the federal prohibition of marijuana and the reluctance of banks to provide services to pot merchants.
Under state rules, retail stores were allocated by population. Seattle is allocated 21 stores and already has 29 applicants; Tacoma was allotted eight stores and has 12 applicants.
Other cities with more retail applicants than allotted stores — and possible license lotteries — include Auburn, Bremerton, Olympia, Puyallup, Redmond, Shoreline, Vancouver and Walla Walla.
Bob Young: 206-464-2174 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @potreporter