The first retail marijuana stores will open in Washington on July 8th, according to the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB), nearly two whole years after voters passed Initiative 502 and legalized the drug in 2012.
The first wave of stores should include approximately 20 different locations. They will be receiving their licenses on July 7, according to WSLCB communications director Bryan Smith. Before opening on the 8th, retailers must record their marijuana inventory into the state’s seed-to-sale tracking system.
“We’ve kept in mind geography and population, and retail licenses will be spread around the state,” Smith said. The Board will publish a list of licensed retailers after the licenses have been issued.
Some retailers are concerned that there might be an initial shortage of product when the market opens. “The last thing we want to do is open and have very little inventory, run for a couple days and then shut down for three days. I really do think that will be a problem,” admits Todd Shirley, a dispensary owner in Shoreline who expects to receive a retail license. Whether or not he gets a license on the 7th, Shirley is planning to skip the July 8 grand opening: “Once we open, I would like to be able to supply our clients. And to have to shut down for a few days could cause them to go elsewhere.”
The new state law says that recreational pot cannot be sold in quantities greater than one ounce — stores may keep the limit even lower, however, as retailers try to keep their sales under control until the marijuana market is fully established. One hopeful store owner, who prefers to remain unnamed, predicts, “it’s going to be kind of a blood bath. You have to compete against the medical and black market with super high prices and limited supply.”
Michael Perkins is another hopeful retailer in the Seattle area. He already runs several medical marijuana dispensaries in Washington, and plans on offering recreational marijuana in a new location, but reportedly doesn’t know how much he’ll charge for it yet. “I would assume $20 to $25 a gram until the producers reduce their prices,” he said. Whether or not producers will lower their prices remains to be seen, but Perkins warns:
“If you want a successful 502, you have to beat the black market. You have to be price competitive. You have to be selection competitive. You have to be convenience competitive. You have to be legitimacy competitive. You’re guaranteed to get all of the customers who would never shop with an illegal street dealer … but you’re not going to get that group of people who shop from their friends unless you bring that price down enough to where the convenience is completely worth it.
For now, there are reports of some growers with asking prices as high as $5,000 per pound for the retail stores. One group of producers, however, has reportedly established a more reasonable price of $2,800 per pound. These growers also request that their retailers cap prices at $420 per ounce for consumers.
So, on the bright side: tt would seem that not everyone has succumbed to the temptation of price gouging in Washington. These lower prices may even develop into an important contribution to the success of the I-502 recreational market.
Photo Credit: Gavin White
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