There’s Not Enough Weed in the Evergreen State
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There’s Not Enough Weed in the Evergreen State


You’d think it was the latest iPad. As early as 4 am, people hailing from as far as Spain lined up outside Washington State’s pot shops to get in on the state’s first retail sales of marijuana on July 8. And they say smoking weed kills your motivation.

The Line Starts Here

The first man to get rung up on what should probably be known as Green Tuesday was actually an out of stater, Cale Holdworth of Kansas, who had been waiting outside Bellingham’s Top Shelf Cannabis for four hours when the store opened at 8 am. For those intent on making stoner history, lining up was the smart way to go: only four pot shops—in Bellingham, Seattle, Prosser and Spokane—actually opened on Tuesday. The rest of the 25 stores that have received licenses so far will open in the next few weeks. What’s the holdup? Not enough supply.

Yep, believe it or not, there’s a marijuana shortage in the Evergreen State. At least, there’s a dearth of pot that’s approved for the retail market. The earliest licensed growers got the green light in March, but it takes four months for a crop to grow, and much of the product wasn’t ready to ship by the July 8th date.

The Washington Weed Seller’s Code of Conduct

Colorado, which legalized weed in the same 2012 election, began selling it on New Years Day. So why is Washington so late out the gate? The difference is that Colorado already had a regulated medical marijuana system, so the licensing and tax process for recreational use followed the same framework. But in Washington, medical pot is unregulated, so all the hoops for producers and retailers to jump through had to be built from scratch.

Everyone who wants to grow or sell recreational pot in Washington must pass a screening by Liquor Control Board investigators, who are overwhelmed by what one spokesperson described as a “gold rush mentality.” Although over 2,600 potential growers have applied, so far the board has licensed fewer than 80 growers across the state. Once producers are licensed, their actual plants must undergo mandatory lab testing. Each plant gets its own tracking number in a bar code system to prevent unlicensed marijuana from entering the retail supply. Not really sure how that works, but it sounds official. Then there’s the 25% tax, driving prices up to $15-$30 per gram. That’s twice as much as it costs on the black market or at unregulated medical outlets. Unfortunately, that means the heaviest users will probably choose to keep breaking the law.

Will to Pay Top Green for the Green

But the high prices didn’t deter novelty seekers from wanting to get in the opening day action. Naturally, the four shops that were ready had to prepare for Apple Store-level crowds. Top Shelf sold over 2,000 grams on Tuesday and stayed open until 10 pm. And Seattle’s Cannabis City had served 700 customers in its first seven hours, with enough supply to keep selling through Wednesday and Thursday.

More stores will open throughout the month of July. But don’t expect to show up in Seattle hoping to get your Maureen Dowd on. Since nobody in Washington has been cleared to run a cannabis kitchen, no stores will carry edibles for the time being. That’s a whole other regulatory challenge.

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About Author

Erica Larsen AKA Eren Harris blogs at Whitney Calls and Clean Bright Day. Their writing has also been published on Salon, Selfish, Violet Rising and YourTango. They live in Los Angeles with their husband and their enormous cat.