Thursday, September 24, 2020
Sept. 24, 2020

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Clark County’s cannabis industry starts growing like a weed

New shops soon to pop up months after end of county’s moratorium

By , Columbian business reporter
Published:
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The former Dragon King restaurant in Hazel Dell is now being converted into becoming the third location for The Herbery, one of four cannabis shops in development for the unincorporated parts of Clark County.
The former Dragon King restaurant in Hazel Dell is now being converted into becoming the third location for The Herbery, one of four cannabis shops in development for the unincorporated parts of Clark County. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Vancouver cannabis retail chain The Herbery is almost ready to debut its new Hazel Dell location and become the second cannabis shop to open in unincorporated Clark County following the Jan. 1 end of the county’s retail cannabis moratorium.

The first was Sticky’s Pot Shop, which had previously operated in Hazel Dell in defiance of the ban but was forced to close in 2018 after a legal battle with the county. The store reopened in the same location in April.

The Herbery operates two stores in east Vancouver, and the Hazel Dell shop will likely join the lineup in a matter of weeks, according to owner Jim Mullen. Three other pot shops are also in development outside city limits, according licensing records from the state Liquor and Cannabis board — two more in Hazel Dell and one in Orchards.

The new Herbery store will be at 1401 N.E. 78th St., taking over the building that was previously home to the Dragon King Chinese restaurant. The shop has received its license from the cannabis board, and Mullen said it’s nearing the end of the county and fire department approval processes.

“The building looks done, but there are a couple of minor things to go,” he said.

The store is sporting a new paint job, but it retains the pagodas on the roof and the restaurant’s roadside sign as a nod to the building’s history, he said.

Mullen said he picked the site because it had good access and visibility, although the choice was also partially dictated by state and county requirements for buffer zones around cannabis shops, which limited the number of available properties. The building is larger than it needs to be for a cannabis shop, he said, but the extra space will come in handy for setting up social distancing measures.

The COVID-19 pandemic stretched out the permitting and development process, Mullen said, but he’s hoping to be able to start setting up the sales floor within the next three weeks. Store staff are already in training at the other two Herbery locations.

“If everything goes well, I would love it if we were able to be open by the July 4th holiday,” he said.

The next arrival will likely be Pot Zone of Vancouver, which is in development for a site on Highway 99 in Hazel Dell. The shop’s license is still pending, but local partner Louie Flores said he expects the process to wrap up in a few weeks and is hoping to open within about two months.

The shop will join a lineup of multiple Pot Zone shops already operating elsewhere in the state, all of which share the same owner, according to state of Washington business records. The Vancouver store has been in the planning stages for years, Flores said, but the plans couldn’t advance until the county council decided to lift the moratorium.

Like the Herbery, Flores said the new Pot Zone shop will open with an eye toward social distancing and other COVID-19 protection measures in its operations.

The third store in the works, Green Tiki Cannabis, has a similar story – Christy Stanley already operates a Green Tiki Cannabis store in Kingston, and she said she’s had her eye on Clark County for years and was among the people who advocated for a change in the county’s cannabis policy.

There’s still room for improvement, she said, because the current buffering rules force the stores to cluster closer together than businesses in the same industry normally would — that’s why Green Tiki, Sticky’s, the new Herbery and the future Pot Zone are all located in Hazel Dell.

The Vancouver Green Tiki location doesn’t have an opening date yet, she said, because the pandemic tripped up the store’s application and development process, which has only recently begun to pick back up.

“I’d like to open in a week, but let’s be realistic about that,” she said.

The final shop on the way is the Orchards Cannabis Market, planned for a site near Fourth Plain Boulevard in Orchards. The shop is in development, according to owner Loren Carlson, although he said it was too soon to share further details.

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