Marijuana license applicants may get refunds

Staff writerFebruary 17, 2014 

A vendor points out the variety of marijuana for sale at the grand opening of the Seattle location of the Northwest Cannabis Market, for sales of medical marijuana products, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013. Voters in Washington state last fall passed Initiative 502, which legalizes the recreational possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and calls for the creation of state-licensed pot growers, processors and retail stores.

AP PHOTO/ELAINE THOMPSON

Thousands of prospective marijuana growers and sellers applied for licenses late last year, but some are having second thoughts.

The question for state regulators: Should dropouts get their $250 application fees back?

Applicants were told clearly that the fees were nonrefundable. But the state Liquor Control Board is seriously considering giving refunds, figuring it is a small price to pay to avoid fights.

After all, staff told the board last week, many people applied only to find themselves in areas with local bans or moratoriums on the new voter-approved recreational pot businesses. Or they found their location wasn't far enough away from restricted sites like schools and parks.

"The sooner we get them out of the system so our resources aren't focused on keeping those applications alive or, frankly, dealing with disgruntled applicants" the better, board member Chris Marr said.

In fact, Marr sees refunds as an incentive, however small, for wavering applicants to pull out.

The liquor board has shown it is willing to reverse course to address mistakes by applicants. The board recently gave applicants an extra 30 days to change their locations after first saying that wouldn't be allowed.

The Seattle Times' Bob Young reported on that decision last week. It upset some applicants who ironed out those details early on when they were supposed to. And the decision could have the opposite effect of refunds, by keeping more applications alive. But Marr said it provides needed clarity.

Marr said the board is headed toward finishing up its final decisions, including how a lottery to select the winning applications for retail stores will work. Licenses are supposed to start being awarded in March.

"We have to start getting hard dates and we have to start giving clear direction," he said.

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