Fasten your seatbelt and put your tray tables in the upright position. The smoking sign is about to be lit.
You’ve got about 48 hours until licensed, public, retail marijuana sales begin for the first time ever in Washington and the second time ever in the United States.
If the opening day experience earlier this year in Colorado is any guide, then buyers can expect long lines and prices higher than they’ve been paying on the street.
First, however, those buyers need to know which stores will open – and that could prove problematic.
The state Liquor Control Board on Monday will announce the approved locations where marijuana and marijuana-infused products can be sold.
It’s been a busy 19 months since Initiative 502, which legalized the recreational use of marijuana, went into effect.
The state has hired experts, conducted public hearings, established rules.
Entrepreneurs have refined their dreams, filed applications, paid fees and reacted either with disappointment or elation as their applications were denied or approved.
Approved growers have been growing marijuana for months, tagging each plant with a bar code to record the progress from sprout to sale. Labs have analyzed each sample to test for purity. Licensed processors have been weighing, packaging and labeling their product.
On Tuesday, sales begin.
Questions? You bet.
Answers? Right here.
Question: Where can I buy marijuana on Tuesday?
Answer: Good question. You might know on Monday, when the state releases the names of those businesses that have been approved for retail sales. State investigators have performed final inspections at selected locations where license applications have been approved. The announcement of those approvals should be available some time Monday. A 24-hour quarantine of the product will then commence.
Q: How many stores will there be?
A: Statewide, 334 retail applications were accepted pending final inspections. In Pierce County, the state will allow 31 stores including 17 at-large, one each in Bonney Lake and University Place, two each in Lakewood and Puyallup and eight in Tacoma.
The state will allow 11 stores in Thurston County, including six at-large, two each in Lacey and Olympia and one Tumwater.
Q: But some cities have banned marijuana stores. How does this make sense if the state issues licenses?
A: The state does what it does, the cities do what they do. Municipal restrictions have not been tested in court. And above it all, the federal government still considers marijuana a dangerous drug, and it could lower its mighty sword at any time.
Q: How much will pot cost?
A: State rules do not speak to price, so the market will decide. One Seattle applicant who expects approval has told a Seattle newspaper that he expects to charge between $15 and $20 per gram. In a medicinal marijuana dispensary, customers pay about $10 per gram.
Q: Will those medicinal stores close?
A: Not yet and maybe never, depending on what the Legislature decides.
Q: What about pot brownies and other marijuana-infused food and beverages?
A: They are legal, but the state must approve all products. No such approvals have been announced, so don’t expect any for sale on Tuesday.
Q: Can I still apply for a license?
Q: If I could apply for a license, would I have to be a state resident?
A: Yes, and yes also if you are a financial backer of a retail-marijuana enterprise.
Q: Will marijuana be taxed?
A: Very much so. A 25 percent excise tax attaches at each stage, from the grower, then the processor, then the retailer.
Q: What about delivery? Can a retail seller deliver to customers?
Q: So let’s say I buy a gram on Tuesday. Once I get it, where can I smoke it?
A: Almost nowhere. The same rules that govern the smoking of tobacco attach to the smoking of pot. No pot in national parks. No Point Defiance or other Municipal Park District facility. No indoor workplaces including bars, restaurants, bowling alleys and skating rinks. No private residences used to provide childcare, foster care, adult care or other social service. Depending on your lease, no smoking in the home or apartment you rent. You will bear the consequences if you smoke an intoxicating substance and you’re caught while driving. Hotels, which can allow 25 percent of their rooms to harbor smokers, will set their own policies concerning marijuana.
Q: Can I buy it — or sell it — over the Internet?
Q: What about food trucks and restaurants? Can they sell infused products?
A: Yes, no and maybe. There have been instances where infused products have been sold from a food truck, but only to customers who have medicinal marijuana credentials. Although some chefs have been tinkering with the idea, don’t look for doobie donuts or corned beef hashish at a restaurant any time soon.
Q: What about free samples? Can I test, and touch, what I’m thinking of buying?
A: Again, no. Growers can give samples to processors and processors can give samples to retailers, but the general public will have to pay. Depending on the policy at each store, you may be able to smell the marijuana you’re thinking of buying, but only through a mesh screen placed over something called a “sniff jar.” Nowhere on the retail property will you see an open marijuana container.
Q: I’m thinking of making my own concentrated cannabis. Can I buy the equipment needed, like extraction tubes or the butane used as a solvent, at a pot retail outlet?
A: Nope. Stores can only sell marijuana, concentrates, infused products and specifically selected paraphernalia including pipes and storage containers.
Q: What about packaging and labeling? Can I expect some groovy graphics and kooky colors?
A: There may not be room. Package labels must provide the product lot number, warnings, net weight and concentration level of THC, or tetrahydrocannabidinol, the primary active ingredient in marijuana.
Q: OK. It’s going to be expensive, I can’t sample it but I’m still interested in giving it a try. How much can I buy?
A: You may possess one ounce of marijuana, 16 ounces of infused products or 72 ounces of liquid infused product. A single transaction of concentrates is limited to seven grams.
Q: How do I know where to go? Will retailers be advertising?
A: Later this summer, after licenses are issued and the supply chain normalizes, The News Tribune will publish a map of retail locations. And yes, retailers may advertise under controlled conditions.
Q: Such as?
A: Retailers may not advertise within 1,000 feet of schools, public parks, transit centers (bus stops don’t count), arcades or other area where children may be present. Advertising may not discuss curative or therapeutic effects of the product, and every ad, in whatever form, must say that marijuana can be both intoxicating and habit-forming. Also, the ad must admonish consumers against driving or operating machinery while under the influence.
Q: Let’s get back to that “sniff jar.” I think that would be a great name for a band.
A: And I think we’re done here.
C.R. Roberts: 253-597-8535 firstname.lastname@example.org