State wrapping up review of pot business applications

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WALLA WALLA — At least 33 Walla Walla County entrepreneurs are among the thousands hoping to get in on the ground floor of the state’s nascent marijuana industry, according to the latest list released by the state Liquor Control Board.

The list, released Tuesday, now has 7,047 applicants on it for licenses to grow, process and sell recreational marijuana. An LCB spokesman said the board has essentially finished going through the backlog of applications.

“This is roughly what the amount is going to be. I wouldn’t imagine it’s going to grow too much more,” Mikhail Carpenter said. The application window closed on Dec. 20.

In Walla Walla County, there have been 20 applications to both grow and process marijuana and 10 applications for retail licenses. One other applicant is seeking a license only to grow and two applicants have applied for processing only licenses.

Under Initiative 502, no one is allowed to hold all three licenses to grow, process and sell cannabis. A licensee may hold both a producer and processor license simultaneously, but I-502 does not allow either producers or processors to also be a retailer.

Investigators have started reviewing applicants, and the liquor board plans to issue growing and processing licenses in late February and early March.

Licenses for stores will be issued later, with expected opening dates in June.

The liquor board is sticking with that timeline even as it continues to study a Jan. 16 formal opinion by state Attorney General Bob Ferguson stating that local governments could ban or restrict recreational pot businesses — basically opting out of the initiative approved by voters.

It was still unknown Tuesday how the opinion will affect issuing of licenses, but some applicants say they would sue if they’re barred by local authorities from doing business.

Of the applicants seeking retail licenses in Walla Walla County, the majority are destined to be disappointed. Only four retail licenses will be allocated based on the county’s population, two in the city of Walla Walla and two at-large. In places where the number of proposed stores outstrip the total allowed, a lottery will determine who gets a license. The date for that lottery has not been set.

Another looming question is how licenses for growing pot will be allocated. Although the board has set no limit on processor or production licenses, total production (growing) will be capped at 2 million square feet of canopy space, which is equivalent to just under 46 acres.

Exactly how the liquor control board will allocate producer licenses to meet its 2 million square foot goal remains unclear Spokesman Brian Smith said the board has the flexibility to curtail production of the production “tiers,” which are under 2,000 square feet, 2,000-10,000 square feet and 10,000-30,000 square feet.

Information from the Bellingham Herald was included in this report.

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