Prosser marijuana store hoping to open July 8

Yakima Herald-RepublicJuly 1, 2014 

Marijuana plant ready for trimming

RICK WILKING/REUTERS

PROSSER -- The floor is laid, concrete curbs have been poured and technology specialists are installing computers.

Altitude, the Yakima Valley's first marijuana retail shop, plans to open its doors July 8 at 260 Merlot Drive, Prosser, said Manel Valenzuela, a company spokesman.

Meanwhile, a small band of protesters have been holding picket signs in front of city hall and plan to do the same once the shop opens its doors.

"Anybody that's aiding and abetting this business is fair game," said Dale Brown, one of the protesters. Brown also has produced videos denouncing some of the proposed marijuana farms surrounding the city.

Unlike many Yakima Valley cities, Prosser has not banned marijuana businesses allowed after voters approved Initiative 502 in November 2012. Prosser, however, has a moratorium and pending ban of medical marijuana production.

The owners of Altitude are expecting protesters, said Valenzuela, a Tri-Cities spokesman hired by the owners.

"If people want to protest, that's their citizen right to do so," said Valenzuela, who would not identify the owners.

Altitude is one of 34 retail license applicants in the state due for final inspection from the state Liquor Control Board, said Mikhail Carpenter, a spokesman for the agency charged with regulating the industry.

There's "no guarantee" they all will receive their licenses, which the board plans to actually issue July 7, Carpenter said.

"It's too early to tell," he said.

The shop, housed in a manufactured building, will feature a lobby area with screens playing videos about the businesses' suppliers and state regulations, a showroom with both marijuana and accessories, and a separate room where the customers will actually make their purchases, Valenzuela said.

Altitude is in a commercially zoned stretch of city near a hotel, fast-food restaurants and an RV park on the northern edge of town near Interstate 82.

The owners have not decided on hours but are hoping to open every day, he said.

They plan to employ between 40 and 50 workers, including managers, clerks, maintenance staff and buyers, Valenzuela said.

A limited liability corporation named Lower Valley Commodities applied for the state licenses, while another limited liability corporation named Prosser Properties and Rentals owns the property. The principal agent's name for both companies is Tim Thompson, according to Washington Secretary of State records.

Thompson, a Prosser resident, owns a downtown chiropractic business. Marijuana opponents have picketed there too.

Thompson did not reply to phone messages left at his business Monday or last week.

Last week, Prosser city officials allowed people to comment about marijuana businesses at a city council meeting. About 40 people turned out and entered the council chambers in shifts.

They spent more than 90 minutes talking, with opinions falling on both sides of the issue.

Supporters believe the state-regulated business will curtail marijuana already being sold on the black market and generate revenue for the town.

Opponents suspect the shop will make it easier for teenagers to get their hands on it, considering the store is in an area frequented by high school kids on their lunch break.

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