Lottery may be necessary for Washington marijuana licenses

Tri-City HeraldMarch 17, 2014 

It may not take a lottery to figure out which prospective marijuana retailers will get state licenses in Pasco, Richland or West Richland.

But the opposite is true for Kennewick, which received the bulk of the retail marijuana license applications in the Tri-City area.

More than half of the 42 applications to sell pot in Benton and Franklin counties were for properties with a Kennewick address.

A review by the Herald shows that it’s likely no more than 13 of the 22 Kennewick applications would meet state requirements.

That’s still many more than the four stores the state Liquor Control Board plans to allow in Kennewick under the new law created by Initiative 502.

The liquor control board plans to allow up to four stores each in Kennewick and Pasco, three in Richland, one in West Richland, two in Benton County outside the three larger cities and one in Franklin County outside Pasco.

Officials from the board are still looking at what a retail lottery would look like. Thanks in part to an overwhelming number of applications statewide, the state now plans a gradual rollout of the new legal marijuana market, with some stores opening in June.

A Herald review shows about 40 percent of the proposed Tri-City area retail locations, or 18 total, do not meet some of the state’s basic requirements. Many are too close to schools, parks and recreational facilities. Some are proposed at existing businesses or by companies owned by non-Washington residents, which the state won’t allow. And some are proposed for apartments or residential areas — also a no no.

State law sets a 1,000-foot radius where marijuana businesses can’t open around schools, playgrounds, recreation facilities, daycares, parks, public transit centers, libraries and game arcades.

Only three of the five proposed Richland pot stores and four of the 10 proposed Pasco stores meet the basic state requirements.

And two of the three proposed Prosser stores meet the guidelines. There are no retail locations proposed for Connell and only one proposed for West Richland.

While most of the retail locations are clustered around local cities, companies have applied to grow and process pot from Finley to Prosser and Benton City.

Most applications for both types were in Benton County, which is allowing the businesses in the unincorporated areas.

Only five of the 51 proposed marijuana processing locations fail to meet the state’s basic guidelines. Four are too close to parks, and one is in an apartment.

And seven of the 75 proposed grows are too close to parks or schools or are in an apartment, according to the Herald’s analysis.

Although there is no limit to the number of grower or processor licenses, state officials did announce that companies who applied for more than one license to grow pot will only get one. They were allowed to apply for up to three.

And the licenses they do get will be limited to 70 percent of the maximum amount that can be grown. So the largest growers will be limited to 21,000 square feet instead of 30,000 square feet.

That means seven more of the 75 proposed grows will not make the cut, at least for now. Officials have said companies can get their application money back on the extra applications or can have them put on hold, to be revisited if the state decides more pot plants are needed.

Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; kpihl@tricityherald.com

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