Lottery to decide who gets marijuana store licenses

OLYMPIA — A lottery to dole out dozens of licenses for marijuana retail outlets will be conducted later this month and owners of those stores could be opening their doors in July.

The Washington State Liquor Control Board on Wednesday approved a plan for holding a separate lottery for each community where the number of applicants for licenses exceeds the number of stores the state will allow.

These will be held starting April 21 and the applicants, winners and runners-up will learn the outcome about a week later.

Everyone in Washington should know the likely store locations May 2 when the results are to be posted online, said Randy Simmons, the agency’s deputy director.

However, winning a lottery — an estimated 120 of them will be held around the state — does not guarantee getting a license, he said.

The apparently successful applicants must still pass criminal background checks and comply with several other requirements. These include verifying they have a right to use the property where they want to open a store and the location is not within 1,000 feet of a school, park or other area where children congregate. Applicants also must verify they are Washington residents.

There is an appeal process if an applicant is deemed ineligible. Meanwhile, the state will consider the application of the first runner-up.

In the next two weeks, liquor board staff will be busy determining exactly where lotteries are needed. They won’t be running them.

Rather Kraght-Snell of Seattle, a private auditing firm that is on contract with the Washington State Lottery, will work with the Washington State University Social and Economic Sciences Research Center.

The state is allowing 35 stores throughout all Snohomish County and 207 licenses applications have been filed.

Chances of getting a license vary from place to place.

In Mukilteo, where one store is permitted, there are three applicants for the license. In Lake Stevens, nine applicants want that city’s one available license and in Marysville there are 33 applications for three licenses.

And lotteries will be conducted in communities with bans or moratoriums, like Marysville and Lynnwood. Applicants in those towns won’t be reviewed until after the handling of those in cities and counties without such restrictions.

Simmons said the state hopes to begin issuing retail licenses in batches of 10 to 20 in the most populous areas, starting the first week of July.

There is no set date for when they can open. Retailers can start selling as soon as they receive their license. Whether they will have an adequate amount of product is another question.

As of Wednesday, the state had issued only nine licenses for growing and processing marijuana. Even as additional licenses are issued in the coming weeks, a possibility exists that some stores will have a limited amount of product when they open.

“We’re going to have what we have,” said Sharon Foster, chairwoman of the Liquor Control Board.

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

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