Eastern Wash. pot shop owners eye Idaho business

SPOKANE — Eastern Washington legal marijuana entrepreneurs said they hope Idaho residents cross the border to get the drug and that some border cities lift moratoriums on pot shops.

Several of the licenses awarded for pot shops through a lottery this week are near the border with the Gem State, which has not legalized marijuana for recreational purposes, The Spokesman Review reported Saturday.

Washington’s Liquor Control Board on Friday released the results of its lotteries for retail marijuana licenses, setting out who gets first crack at securing one of the coveted documents and opening the state’s first recreational pot shops this summer.

In 75 cities and counties across the state, there were more applicants for retail licenses than stores allotted. The board held lotteries last month to determine who among those 1,174 applicants had the first chance at winning a license. A favorable rank in the lottery doesn’t guarantee a license. Applicants still must pass a background check and financial investigation and meet other requirements before any licenses are issued.

Any of the applicants could drop out or switch to a different location without losing their slot, said Mikhail Carpenter, a spokesman for the liquor board.

Three Spokane County applicants receiving the green light by the Liquor Control Board to finish the licensing process plan to open a store in Newman Lake, just a mile and a half from the border with Idaho.

Manpreet Singh of Hi-Star Corp., who wants to open one of those stores, said he picked the small shopping area in Newman Lake for two reasons. One is he owns a gas station nearby.

The other? “It’s close to the border,” Singh said. That could mean an expanded customer base from Idaho, he said.

Singh said having three marijuana stores in the same area might be tough for business. He has scoped out another spot in the Spokane Valley, but it’s not as good, he said. Among other things, it’s at least 15 miles from the border, Singh said.

Other shop licenses are in Clarkston and Newport. But those cities have placed moratoriums on marijuana businesses.

Joseph Rammell received the OK to proceed with his application to open Mary Jane’s Weed in Newport. It would be less than 1,000 feet from Oldtown, Idaho, a short walk along residential streets. But the store will open only if Newport drops its moratorium on marijuana businesses within its city limits. If not, “we’re looking at a couple of alternate locations” outside of town, he said.

Kelly Jackson, who got a permit to open a shop in Clarkston, said he hopes a tourism pitch will convince city leaders to lift the moratorium.

“Tourism is going to go crazy,” he predicted.

Jackson hopes it can be convinced to drop the moratorium and go after “marijuana tourism,” billing the area as a destination for people who want to fish, spend time on the rivers or visit nearby Hell’s Canyon – and have a chance to enjoy a recreational drug illegal most other places.

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