Licenses available for prospective pot growers

A year after voters created a legal marijuana industry, entrepreneurs can begin their pursuit of profits from pot Monday.

Starting at 8 a.m., those wishing to grow marijuana, process it into a wide variety of products, or operate one of 344 retail stores can apply to the state for a license to do so.

Ebey Island pig farmer Bruce King intends to be among the first wave of applicants as he wants to set up a 30,000-square-foot indoor marijuana growing operation on agricultural land he owns near Arlington.

“It’s legal. It’s profitable and it fits into my existing farming operation,” said King who, in addition to the pig farm, has a greenhouse near the U.S. 2 trestle where he grows basil, tomatoes, melons and lettuce.

Pete O’Neil of Seattle said he’ll be in his lawyer’s office when he seeks licenses for retail stores in Lynnwood, Bremerton and his hometown.

He’s been preparing for this moment since the Washington State Liquor Control Board began months ago writing the rules to allow adults to buy marijuana over the counter without fear of arrest.

But there’s no guarantee he’ll get a license for any of the three locations. If the number of license requests exceed the allotment of stores in the cities, the state will dole them out by lottery.

“Every Thursday I go to Mass and I light a candle” to pray for winning a pot license, said O’Neil, a former comedy club owner.

Today is another stride in Washington’s historic march that began when Washington voters approved Initiative 502 in November 2012. Washington and Colorado are the only states with such laws.

“It’s actually pretty exciting,” said Alison Holcomb of the ACLU, who managed the initiative campaign. “I think the most exciting story Monday will be how many actual applications will be submitted.”

Probably a lot.

“People were calling me the day after the election asking when I can get my license,” said Mikhail Carpenter, spokesman for the liquor board. “They are going to run to get theirs in as fast as possible.”

License applications can be submitted until 5 p.m. Dec. 19. Filing can be done online, by mail or in person. Those mailed in must be postmarked by 5 p.m. Dec. 19 or they will be sent back.

There’s no need to hurry, Carpenter said. Marijuana licenses are not distributed on a first come, first served basis. All fully completed applications received or postmarked by the deadline will be reviewed.

Each one is submitted to the Department of Revenue then forwarded to the liquor control board, which hired 14 investigators to conduct background checks on applicants and their investors.

Those applying must show where they will get the money for operating their marijuana-related business.

“We’ll have the most open marijuana production system in the world,” he said.

Names of applicants and where they want to operate will be posted online on the liquor board website starting Nov. 26, Carpenter said.

It is not known when the first licenses will be issued. Growers and processors will be getting theirs first because they need to plant and harvest a crop so there is product to sell in the stores, Carpenter said.

Some applicants are putting in for licenses without knowing for certain where they would be allowed to operate.

Snohomish County and each of its cities can set their own rules and some have and some have not.

Monday night, the Mountlake Terrace City Council will hold a public hearing and possibly adopt their regulations. The city could wind up with one retail store and, under the proposed rules, it would be in a short stretch of 220th Street SW.

The Snohomish County Council approved regulations last week which allow the growing and processing of marijuana indoors in industrial zones, and indoors or outdoors on agricultural land.

Everett council members acted last month. The rules steer the city’s five allotted stores into limited commercial areas. Neighborhood commercial zones are off-limits as is the downtown core; the law bars pot businesses within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, and many other places where kids play or congregate.

Marysville, Edmonds and Arlington are in the process of writing rules to be in place next spring; Edmonds and Arlington have adopted moratoriums until they finish writing theirs.

In Lynnwood, the council will meet later this month to consider whether to extend its existing moratorium on marijuana businesses or write up rules on where to allow them.

King, the Ebey Island pig farmer, said he’s got the right location and is gearing up.

He estimates it will cost him about $5,000 to cover things like the license application, security cameras, alarms and the inventory tracking systems required by the law. Lights and other equipment for the planned indoor growing facility are expected to cost about $80,000, he said.

Early on, King anticipates challenges growing marijuana, such as aphids, mold and quality problems, just as there is with any crop.

“All that stuff is normal in farming,” he said. “It’s not that big a deal. My guess is by June or July of next year I’ll have figured out a basic set of procedures and be cheerfully raising 3,000 to 4,000 plants.”

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

Finding a store

Up to 35 stores could be licensed to sell marijuana products in Snohomish County. No one knows yet if that many will open or exactly where they will be opening. We do know in which communities they could operate. Here’s how the state is allocating licenses in Snohomish County:

Unincorporated areas: 16

Everett: 5

Marysville: 3

Edmonds: 2

Lynnwood: 2

Arlington: 1

Bothell (part): 1

Lake Stevens: 1

Mill Creek: 1

Monroe: 1

Mountlake Terrace: 1

Mukilteo: 1

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