Morning Press: Pot retail sales, Mount St. Helens, Parade of Homes




Will we heat up this weekend? Local weather coverage is online here.

Were you busy this week? Catch up on some big stories.

Vancouver pot store alleges price gouging

photoMain Street Marijuana opened to the public for the first time on July 9. The Washington Attorney General's Office is stepping into battles between two Washington cities and pot shop licensees who have been barred from opening similar stores.

(/The Columbian)

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Ramsey Hamide says he has had enough of cannabis price gouging.

When the Main Street Marijuana manager saw what came in a shipment of material from a new grower this week, he decided to close until he can secure more variety, lower prices and better quality stock, he said.

"I'm not going to let these guys hold us hostage anymore," Hamide said of a handful of growers that he says have been selling bad product for high prices. "It's hurting the entire system, and it needs to stop. By continuing to play ball with these guys, it's just making things worse."

The store will likely remain closed through the weekend and could stay that way well into next week, Hamide said.

There's a significant shortage of legal marijuana across Washington. Fewer than 100 of the 2,500 or so growers who applied for licenses from the state have so far been approved, and growers that have licenses haven't had enough time to harvest much stock, because it takes at least 10 weeks to grow even the fastest-growing plants.

Read the full story here. Read our Cannabis Chronicles blog here.

Mount. St. Helens to become blast zone

photoSteven Lane/The Columbian An image of the system below Mount St. Helens, to a depth of eight kilometers, charted by Seth Moran and Greg Waite. Pink marks earthquake epicenters; blue material is cold and orange is hot.

WOODLAND — When they set out to help chart the inaccessible regions far below a volcano, Nick Lock was swinging a pick and Leah Sabbeth was holding a GPS unit.

Lock didn't have to dig very far Tuesday morning: just deep enough to bury a seismic instrument about the size of a water bottle.

Sabbeth didn't have a tough navigational challenge: Her job was to mark the point where the package was planted.

And when up to a ton of explosives is detonated tonight, a geophone will read the tremor and feed the information to a cannister.

It will be a little bit of data about a very big subterranean system below Mount St. Helens, maybe the equivalent of one letter printed on one page.

But that process will be going on at more than 7,000 sensor sites — some near Vancouver — during the course of 23 separate explosions: That's a lot of letters.

Read the full story here.

Republican, Democrat run against incumbent Herrera Beutler

U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, is facing a challenger on both the right, Michael Delavar, and the left, Bob Dingethal, in the race to represent the 3rd Congressional District.

Herrera Beutler, first elected in 2010, has said she's running for a third term in part because she doesn't believe anyone will work harder to represent Southwest Washington.

Delavar, a Republican who was once a supporter of Herrera Beutler, blasted her as a liberal and said she should have backed her party rather than calling for the end of the government shutdown in 2013. The Democratic candidate, Dingethal, said it's time to work to bolster the middle class, properly fund the nation's public schools and move past partisan gridlock that has paralyzed Congress.

Both Delavar, a Washougal pilot, and Dingethal, who is on leave from his position as executive director of the Gifford Pinchot Task Force, take issue with what they characterized as the incumbent's reluctance to hold more traditional town halls.

Read the full story here. See more election coverage here.

Sparks building transforming

As developer Ryan Hurley walked through his latest downtown Vancouver acquisition on a recent July morning, he spoke of a vision beyond the gutted former home of Sparks Home Furnishings.

“This building has great bones,” he said, while workers in hard hats yanked aging insulation from the rafters and dropped it in dirty mounds on the naked concrete below. “It’s pedestrian friendly; the new library has given us a connection to the park. This area of downtown used to be dingy. We want it to come alive.”

Halfway through its remodeling project, the 40,000-square-foot store that for more than 50 years sold loveseats, patio sets and armoires has been stripped of its finishing and fixtures. Dimly lit, it looks closer to “dingy” than “alive.”

But those who’ve watched Hurley remodel four previous downtown buildings in less than five years say they have faith in the vision he’s bringing to the city block between Broadway and C Street along Evergreen Boulevard.

“There’s been a huge change downtown in the past five years. People are excited to be here,” said Lee Rafferty, executive director of Vancouver’s Downtown Association. “Ryan Hurley has been one of the biggest forces behind that change.”

Read the full story here.

La Center community rallies to build high school football stadium

photoLa Center High School students, staff, administrators and parents help with the construction of the new football stadium on Friday.

(/The Columbian)

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LA CENTER — Zac McRobert heard about the project all the time growing up in La Center.

By the time he got to high school, he was told, there would be a new stadium, a new football field, on campus at La Center High School.

Letdown after letdown was beginning to take its toll, though.

"Two years ago, I thought it was never going to happen," McRobert said after a levy came up a few votes short of passage.

The project was in critical condition but still had a heartbeat.

The community — old, young, athletes, non-athletes, parents, grandparents, friends outside of La Center — not only saved the project, but actually are building the project.

Now, McRobert is preparing for his senior year of football for the Wildcats, preparing to play on a new field, in front of fans in a new set of bleachers, under new lights, and at the high school.

Oh, and McRobert and other football players are just some of the hundreds of people who have volunteered and/or donated funds to the project that would not die.

Read the full story here.

Parade of Homes show drawing big crowds

The NW Natural Parade of Homes is drawing large crowds to Erickson Farms in Felida, with the number of visitors tracking at nearly double last year's attendance, according to the Building Industry Association of Clark County, an event sponsor.

"The crowds have been wonderful. The weather is wonderful. We couldn't ask for a better show," said the association's executive director, Avaly Scarpelli. From the show's opening on July 11 through last weekend, it has been tracking at a 94 percent increase in visitors compared to last year, she said.

The Parade of Homes features eight luxury homes by seven builders, and all but two of the homes have been sold, she said. Builders already are excited about participating in next year's show and are confident that they can build homes on speculation, or without advance buyers, that can be sold in the current strong real estate market, she said.

The show's success comes at a time when Clark County's housing market is showing solid gains. The most recent report from RMLS, the Portland-based housing listing service, notes that the 637 closed sales recorded in June were the largest number of June closings since 2006. The June closings were up 2.4 percent for the year and were 6.2 percent higher than in May. There were 1,086 new listings in June.

Also, the average market time for homes listed for sale was 83 days, down from 98 days in May and 92 days in June 2013. The median sales price rose by 10.2 percent over the year, from $221,500 in June 2013 to $244,000 this June.

Get details on the final weekend here.