Local pot stores opening ... soon

Vancouver retail marijuana sales expected to start this week pending state process

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter

Published:

 

This week’s marijuana forecast: Expect scattered openings with occasional shortages coupled with large crowds.

Two of Vancouver’s marijuana retail stores have passed their final inspections and hope to open this week. But the exact time for the first store opening won’t be confirmed until the state system clicks into place.

Main Street Marijuana, 2314 Main St., expects to be the city’s first store to open its doors. It’s aiming for 11 a.m. Wednesday, said Ramsey Hamide, a manager.

“We’ve secured product, but we kind of want to wait an extra day to get things sorted out,” Hamide said after the company decided to push the date back from Tuesday. “Mayor Tim Leavitt will cut our ribbon at 11 a.m. on July 9, and after that we’ll let whoever is around in.”

The Washington State Liquor Control Board plans to issue the first batch of 20 or so retail licenses across the state today by email, after which stores will get a physical license in the mail, said Brian Smith, a spokesman for the agency.

Waiting game

Marijuana processors and producers can’t sell their products to retail stores until the stores get that email. After that, the processor or producer can make a sale, but then they must hold the product in 24-hour quarantine until it can be delivered.

“Once the retailer has the product, it’s a matter of him/her entering into the traceability system as received,” Smith said by email. “He/she can then begin selling for retail.”

The time from receiving the product to logging it into inventory should be fairly fast, as long as there are no computer glitches, but the timing on when licenses will be issued, as well as shipping and hold times, is still uncertain.

That means stores that open on Tuesday won’t be able to give an exact opening time — because the times can’t be verified in advance, said Alison Holcomb, criminal justice director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and author of Initiative 502, which legalized recreation marijuana in the state.

“A lot of people may just go to stores, hang out and wait for them to open,” Holcomb said.

Main Street Marijuana has secured purchase of two 5-pound shipments for opening week from Farmer J’s, a grower near Spokane.

The first shipment will be 2.5 pounds each of two strains, Sour Kush and J’s Famous Kush. The second shipment is expected July 12 and will be 5 pounds of Blue Dream, said Jared Herling, owner of Farmer J’s.

“Sour Kush is probably one of the most well-known strains out there,” Herling said, adding it could cause the munchies. “It’s super-high THC. ”

Short for tetrahydrocannabinol, THC is the substance in marijuana that produces a high.

The other opening-day strain is an in-house one that Herling created a few years ago, Herling said.

“J’s Famous Kush is a cousin of the Sour Kush,” he said. J’s Famous Kush tested at 17.5 percent THC and Sour Kush tested at 20.6 percent THC, he added.

The farm has been working almost constantly to get ready over the past several months and has only barely begun harvesting its first products, Herling said.

Higher prices

With shortages across the state, customers can expect opening day prices to be on the expensive side, Hamide said.

“I hate to even say it because we really want to get the prices down as low as possible,” Hamide said. “But to start, we’re expecting maybe $90 to $100 for a 4-gram bag and $45 to $50 for a 2-gram bag.”

As supplies improve, prices will hopefully drop closer to street costs, he said.

“I would say in the first four to six weeks, we’ll see some significant price declines,” Hamide said. “We’re going to try to have some giveaways (of glassware or other items) in the meantime to make it so customers get more for their dollar. What I want to see is the prices get so low that we can compete with the black market, and I think we’ll get there sooner rather than later.”

Stores in Vancouver are allowed to be open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., according to city regulations. The state regulations allow stores to remain open until midnight, but local stores must follow the city rules.

New Vansterdam

New Vansterdam, at 6515 E. Mill Plain Blvd., is going to wait a bit longer for the issues to resolve. That store plans to be open 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, said Brian Budz, one of the owners.

“We are going to open when we can provide the level of service that we want to provide,” Budz said.

Still, he expects shortages could close stores around the state periodically through July and into August.

“We have told our employees that there is a chance we could open and then we may have to close the doors (on a few scattered business days) because we’ll be short of supply,” Budz said.

Budz has a few growers lined up, including Vancouver’s CannaMan Farms, he said.

Only about 80 growers have been licensed so far out of the nearly 3,000 that applied in the state, and many of the 80 have only just begun planting. Shortages are likely until more growers are approved and the licensed growers can harvest their first crops — a process that takes about 10 weeks from the first planting.

Brian Stroh, owner of CannaMan Farms, the only licensed grower in Clark County, said he plans to have some stock available for New Vansterdam’s opening, but much like Farmer J’s, his operation has barely begun harvesting.

“These guys are going to have some of the only stuff I’ll be selling,” Stroh said of New Vansterdam.

Stroh said New Vansterdam will have some of his Cinex, Godzilla and New Kush strains. Information about the strains is available on CannaMan’s website at www.cannamanfarms.com.

He also said he’ll try to get some stock to Main Street Marijuana for its opening if owners want it.

“I’ll get something over to those guys if they’re opening on Wednesday,” Stroh said. “I’ll probably only have a couple ounces at that point, but I’d like to help them out if I can.”

Slow start

In the first three months of operations, customers should expect to see mostly just a variety of marijuana flowers and not much in the way of tinctures or oils or food. That’s because processors will have to purchase buds or grow their own plants during the shortage period before they can make their products, Budz and Stroh said.

But there should be a more steady influx of supply by late August, with a major ramp-up in September or October, the two said.

“I think there will be a big difference six weeks from now,” Stroh said. “The middle of August there will be a lot more supply, and when the outdoor grows harvest in October, then there will be lots of product.”

Another issue is that the state only has two labs, Analytical 360 in Yakima and Confidence Analytics in Seattle.

Both labs have seen a large influx of buds for testing, and the labs must confirm them before any sales can be made.

Stroh, who sent his buds to Analytical 360, said he hopes the analysis will be finished in time.

He also said he’s been a little frustrated trying to get clarification about a variety of rules from the Liquor Control Board over the past week, although he said he knows the agency is extremely busy.

“There’s a real lack of communication right now,” Stroh said of the confusion over quarantines, opening days and other issues. “I’ve been a big proponent of the state, but communication now, they’re not communicating.”