Pot Professionals in Suspense Over Marijuana Licensing and Supply in Washington State

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — While the average American was making plans for the July 4 holiday weekend, John Evich was fretting over whether his license to sell marijuana at the Top Shelf Cannabis retail store in Bellingham, Wash. has been approved by the state.

"I'm super excited to be pioneering a new industry, to be working with producers and to be writing history but the process is nerve wracking," Evich told MainStreet. "The biggest thing I'm concerned with right now is if we will be licensed on Monday."

Tuesday July 8 is a big day for the former professional fisherman. It's when recreational marijuana goes on sale in Washington but there is a possibility that there won't be enough supply to meet demand.

"Because some of the supply was contaminated with mold, there are only two batches that have been tested, received back from the analytical lab and approved by the state," said Aaron Houston, strategist with Weedmaps, a review site for legal marijuana dispensaries. "We should expect to see a scarce supply on day one and into day 30 or more."

Washington is the second recreational marijuana market set to open but the 502 law that legalized marijuana in Washington isn't nearly as business friendly as Colorado's Amendment.

"The taxation scheme is onerous and burdensome," Houston told MainStreet. "The tax on the end product is up to 75%, which makes it hard to do business."

Pending license approval, Top Shelf Cannabis has purchasing agreements with growers Sea of Green Farms in Seattle and 9 Point Productions in Bremerton for 26 to 28 pounds of marijuana. Only 18 pounds is expected to come through plus up to 30 pounds of joints and blunts.

"Once we are licensed, we can then contact our producer and processor so they can put our product order in quarantine for 24 hours prior to delivery or pick up," said Evich.

Product is required to be quarantined for 24 hours before sale to allow for the possibility of random inspection by the state Liquor Control Board.

"The board has no experience with marijuana," Houston told MainStreet. When recreational marijuana use went legal on January 1 of this year in Colorado, a state agency called the Marijuana Enforcement Division had been established since 2010.

"The key difference with Washington state is that Colorado had a system working well for medical and only had to flip the switch to include recreational," said Houston.

While Evich will find out on Monday whether he has been chosen to enter the lucrative recreational marijuana market, GFarmaLabs CEO Ata Gonzalez is scrambling.

"We applied for a producer /processor license in Washington months ago but there's a ban in Yakima County where our office is located," said Gonzalez. "The old guard is still in place there."

Yakima, Pierce and Wenatchee have similar bans as Clark County, whose commissioners voted to stop all growing, processing and selling of recreational marijuana within its jurisdiction despite marijuana's now-legal status in Washington.

The edible cannabis chocolatier is now begrudgingly exploring other more grow friendly locations within the state.

"We don't want our grow to be in Seattle or Western Washington because it rains a lot," Gonzalez told MainStreet. Gonzalez chose Yakima to build a grow facility because of the sunny weather.

--Written by Juliette Fairley for MainStreet

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