The state’s first marijuana stores could open July 8 at the earliest, a Washington State Liquor Control Board spokesman said Tuesday.
The board plans to issue the first batch of licenses July 7, after which companies will have 24 hours to secure stock and deal with other issues before they can open, said Brian Smith, communications director.
“They’ll have 24 hours, and then it’s up to them if they want to open on July 8,” Smith said.
Some stores had hoped to open as early as July 1, but the board needs a little extra time to work through the process, Smith said.
“It’s going to be a little bit rocky at first,” Smith said. “We’re a regulatory body and this is a controlled market.”
Supply is another looming issue.
So far there are about 80 licensed growers across the state, with only one, CannaMan Farms, in Clark County.
CannaMan should have its first products available by mid-July, said head grower Shane Wahl.
But because the company wants to be known for its quality over quantity, there are no plans to rush marijuana to market when the first stores open, he said.
“I want to make sure I’m bringing a very top, top quality,” Wahl said.
Part of that quality includes curing the plants for a set amount of time, which increases the THC content and overall flavor of the plant, he said.
“You want to make sure they keep all the great aromas and tastes,” Wahl said. “It’s sort of like having a 2006 wine versus a 1906 wine. Curing gives it a bit more time to sit and build itself.”
Still, stores should be able to get enough supply from the 80 or so growers now approved from around the state, Smith said.
“We’ve licensed approximately 10 football fields’ worth of canopy,” Smith said. “And they’ll supply an initial batch of around 20 (stores).”
The board is trying to license more growers as quickly as possible, but there are a lot of inspections and checks for each grower to go through before that can happen, he said.
Using medical pot
Once a new grower does come online, its operators have a 15-day no-questions-asked window in which they can bring in marijuana plants and strains.
And one possible source for that could be medical marijuana growers, Smith said.
“We allowed people to bring in mature plants so long as they’re not flowering,” he said.
That means new licensees could legally bring in a full warehouse of mature but not-yet-budded pot plants purchased from a medical grower. And that purchase would be legal on the medical side as well.
“Nothing would interfere with that on the medical side because it’s unregulated,” Smith added.
After purchase, and once the plants are catalogued, growers could speed them to budding to get product to stores.
The plants start budding when they are exposed to equal amounts of sunlight and darkness, as happens naturally at the fall equinox. Indoor growers trigger that process artificially with their lighting systems.
Tom Lauerman, a Vancouver medical marijuana grower who goes by the name Farmer Tom, said he’s already had some interest from regional growers that want to sell his line of marijuana strains.
He’s already working with one near Port Orchard, but he hopes to sell his strains through some licensed recreational growers in Clark County as well.
“If I can hook up with local people to do the same, I look forward to doing that,” Lauerman said.
The strains that Lauerman is branding are widely used, but he says he’s increased their quality through his organic farming practices over the last 10 years. He hopes to provide licensed recreational growers with parent plants of several strains during their startup window and then collect a small franchise fee for their continued use.
He also will insist on certain farming practices and will educate the growers about them as part of any deal to sell his branded line of Farmer Tom marijuana strains.
“Right now we’re all just getting this off the ground and the agreements are still a little vague,” Lauerman said.
He won’t be able to help growers with a full batch of ready-to-bud plants, but his model could help growers develop a gourmet line of products within a few months, he added.
“I’ll have stuff I’m really close with that will be grown exactly how I want, and other strains that I’ll basically just check the products the grower will use on the plants and make sure they’re grown organically,” Lauerman said.
He has dozens of strains, including some of the oldest known varieties. He’s also talking to a grower working toward licensing in the Woodland area, but no details have been worked out yet, he said.
As for growers’ licenses, the board is trying to work with those with the most-developed business plans first, Smith said.
“It depends on who’s ready,” he said. “Our managers are looking at 150 cases at a time, and it varies between applicants as to their readiness.”
In the meantime, everyone will just need to be a little bit patient so the process can move forward, he said.
“Over time, this market is going to mature,” Smith said. “It’s going to refine. And there will be more product.”