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Prosser marijuana shop meets supply goal

Steve Lee of Pasco sniffs a sample of marijuana while Jarrett Moore, a canabis coach at Altitude, explains to Lee's wife, Jessica, the types of pot the Prosser retail store has in stock on the first day of sales in the state.
Steve Lee of Pasco sniffs a sample of marijuana while Jarrett Moore, a canabis coach at Altitude, explains to Lee's wife, Jessica, the types of pot the Prosser retail store has in stock on the first day of sales in the state. Tri-City Herald

Prosser's lone marijuana retail shop has met its goal of keeping the supply of pot high enough to conduct business daily.

Additional growers helped increase Altitude's inventory enough that it was able to extend its hours about a month ago, said Tim Thompson, one of the investors.

"We are the only store in the state that has been open every day," he said.

Thompson's goal was to make sure they didn't have to shut down to wait for more marijuana, he said.

"I think it is paying off," he said.

For the first few days, customers were limited to one gram, but since then, they've been able to buy a full ounce, which is 28 grams, and is the maximum that someone can possess under the new law created by Initiative 502.

Altitude was among the first marijuana retailers to open in the state July 8, the day the Washington Liquor Control Board issued licenses to 24 businesses.

Not all were ready or able to open that day, but those such as Altitude that did reported $246,000 of marijuana sales, according to data released by the state agency.

Since then, Washington pot businesses have sold at least $8.4 million worth of marijuana, according to the data. The state will collect more than $2 million in excise tax from those sales.

How many businesses are operating statewide is uncertain, since some have been sporadic. The Liquor Control Board has issued licenses for 50 pot shops, 146 processors and 183 growers statewide, according to data released earlier this week.

Altitude remains the only retail pot shop in the Mid-Columbia. Ten businesses have received approval to grow pot, process it, or both in Benton, Franklin and Walla Walla counties.

Pasco has permanently banned pot businesses from within its boundaries. Kennewick City Council will consider a similar ban Sept. 2, and Richland and West Richland also are mulling permanent bans.

Prosser now has a temporary ban on marijuana-related businesses, but Altitude is unaffected since it was already in operation when the Prosser City Council made the decision.

Altitude has expanded its offerings to dozens of varieties of marijuana and to products beyond just the marijuana flower. The shop also carries some concentrates, which are oils; kief, or high potency crystals of plant; rolled joints; and cones, which are thick-rolled joints.

Thompson said they are close to getting edibles and drinks.

The shop at 260 Merlot Drive has attracted customers from all over, including Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, New York and Britain, Thompson said.

Fridays and Saturdays are the busiest days, but, "it is just steady all day long," he said.

He expects traffic will increase once prices drop, which he is anticipating will happen once the fall harvest of marijuana is available in November.

Right now, most of what Altitude carries is $22.50 plus tax up to $32 plus tax per gram.

"We realize it is expensive," Thompson said. But he said his employees try to explain to customers that "you are getting a safe, tested product. You know exactly what you are getting."

The strength of the marijuana is clearly labeled, he said.

Most of the cost -- about 70 percent -- is some form of taxes, Thompson said.

That could change if the federal government were to no longer classify marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, he said.

That means the federal government says it has a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use.

And for businessmen like Thompson, it means that Altitude can't write off any of its business expenses. The business will pay federal income taxes on the business' gross, not the net income, as most businesses do, he explained.

He's hopeful enough states will legalize medical marijuana that the federal government will reconsider the classification in the next few years.

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

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