Prosser retail pot shop approved

Tri-City HeraldJuly 7, 2014 

Altitude

Construction workers install a curb on June 30 outside Altitude, one of the state's first marijuana retail shops, in Prosser.

ROSS COURTNEY — Yakima Herald-Republic

— Prosser’s first marijuana retail shop -- Altitude -- will open this morning for a few hours.

Altitude was among the first 24 businesses to receive marijuana retailer licenses Monday from the Washington State Liquor Control Board.

In Eastern Washington, the state agency also has issued licenses for pot retailers in Union Gap, Ephrata, East Wenatchee and Spokane. It’s unclear how many of the other shops will be ready to open today.

In part, that’s because marijuana producers and processors must set aside shipments for 24 hours so state investigators can spot check them.

The retailers couldn’t place orders with growers and processors until after they received their licenses early Monday.

Altitude will be ready to open from 8 to 11 a.m. at 260 Merlot Drive, according to Tim Thompson, one of the investors. They hope to sell small amounts of legal marijuana to about 200 to 300 customers.

“We are making history,” Thompson said.

And they want to give as many people as possible a chance to make history with them. It will be the first opportunity Washington residents will have to buy legal recreational pot under the system voters approved through Initiative 502 in November 2012.

An ounce is the maximum that someone can possess under the new law. That’s 28 grams, but Thompson said Altitude will sell one to two grams per customer to start with.

Altitude expects to limit the amount of marijuana people can buy for at least the first few weeks after opening, Thompson said.

“Supply is really, really tight,” Thompson said.

Fewer than 10 farmers in the state have any amount of marijuana available, he said. That number is expected to grow to 60 to 70 within a few weeks.

Initially, Altitude will carry marijuana grown by Fireweed Farms of Prosser, Monkey Grass Farms of Wenatchee, Blewett Pass Farms near

Wenatchee and Peninsula Cannabis of Port Angeles, Thompson said.

Statewide, 24 retailers and 90 producers have permission to operate, said Mikhail Carpenter, Liquor Control Board spokesman. The state plans to issue up to 334 retail licenses and more producer licenses. The state agency received more than 2,600 applications to grow pot.

Just because the state issues a license doesn’t mean a pot business can open. The business must follow local regulations as well. If cities or counties have a permanent or temporary ban in place, marijuana businesses can’t open. The state agency is processing first any applications for locations without permanent or temporary bans.

Altitude’s location is within the state guidelines for where marijuana businesses can open, said Prosser Mayor Paul Warden.

The city leadership has not taken a position on the initiative, so it is being implemented as it was approved by voters.

Thompson expects Altitude’s biggest demographic will be people who either haven’t tried pot, or who tried it in college but didn’t continue using it because it wasn’t legal.

Altitude will sell the pot flower for now, but hopes to have some marijuana-infused drinks later this month, Thompson said. Marijuana will be $20 to $30 for a gram, Thompson said.

“It is going to be more expensive (than the black market) but there is value in that,” he said.

Each product will be tested so customers will know exactly what is in it, Thompson said. The strength will be measured. Edibles also will be labeled with dosage and sold in childproof containers.

Thompson, a Prosser chiropractor, doesn’t prescribe marijuana as part of his medical practice, but he’s spoken to many patients who have benefited from using it, he said.

It’s better to have the state control and regulate recreational marijuana, he said. It will generate tax revenue and make it harder for children to get pot. Dealers in the illicit market don’t care if they sell to kids or how safe the product is, Thompson said.

Customers will have to show their ID to get into Altitude’s waiting room and show it two more times before being able to buy any pot, Thompson said.

The business will have cannabis coaches on hand to meet with customers, educate them about what is available and help them determine what they are looking for, Thompson said.

Customers will be able to look at and smell samples, but they can’t touch.

So far, Altitude has hired about 40 people, with plans to hire more.

The store will likely be open from 3 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Weekend hours have not been set. For up-to-date information, go to www.facebook.com/altitudemj or call 509-786-4200.

To see a map of proposed marijuana businesses around the state click here.

-- Kristi Pihl: 509-582-1512; kpihl@tricityherald.com

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