Colorado just marked six months since the launch of legal recreational marijuana sales. Washington, for its part, is set to follow suit on July 8. But the state may experience some growing pains. Of the 335 retail dispensaries awaiting approval in Washington, only about twenty are expected to obtain licenses by the state on July 7– leaving the new shops just one day to stock and prepare for the weed-hungry stampede anticipated the next day.
This small glimmer of sunlight for stoners comes after a long course of delays in the enactment of State Initiative 502 — the bill legalizing retail marijuana in Washington. However, many industry and regulation authorities expect high bud prices and shortages during the beginning of retail sales, similar to what Colorado went through earlier this year.
Washington’s Liquor Control Board built a raft of regulation for a small flood of dispensary hopefuls when it should have constructed an ark for the storm of 2,000 applications it received. This tidal wave of wannabe pot businesses has resulted in a form of bureaucratic chaos that potential growers and dispensary owners are eager to see resolved.
The LCB had to enact a lottery system to fairly award licenses to the large number of eligible dispensary applicants. (Seattle is allotted 21 retail locations by the state and had over 400 applications.) After the shit show of reviewing potential dispensaries, 335 retail locations were set to receive licenses throughout the state, although the vast majority of those are still waiting for state inspection and approval to open.
Only 79 of 2,500-plus applicants for marijuana growing licenses have been approved by the LCB, and as of June 30, just two of those growers have submitted samples to a certified lab for testing — something required in Washington before retail cannabis can hit the shelves.
The shortage of state-approved herb has created quite the bidding war. The Associated Press reported that recreational shops are paying upwards of $4,000 per pound due to the severe lack of lab-approved pot, and coupled with state taxes, the expensive wholesale price is expected to result in $25 grams and lines out the door to pay for it.
Colorado had 37 retail dispensaries up and running on January 1, the first day of recreational sales in the state — eighteen in Denver alone. However, Colorado already had its toes in the water thanks to years of regulated medical marijuana centers. Washington essentially dove in head first; medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 1998, but it was never regulated.
This story originally ran yesterday over at Westword.com