While Seattle saw its first legal pot retail store run out of product before the end of the week, Thurston County’s first legal marijuana retailer opened for business at noon Friday, ready to make history.
At least 100 customers had lined up outside 420 Carpenter, in an office complex at 422 Carpenter Road SE in the Lacey area.
“This should have been happening a long time ago,” owner Chad Champagne told the diverse crowd before sales began.
With a 5-gram limit, customers could choose from a handful of cannabis strains that were pre-rolled into joints behind a glass display case. Outside the store, a DJ played songs by Bob Marley and Sublime, while Jimmy John’s offered free sandwiches and other munchies.
Lacey resident Mark Sampsell was the store’s first customer. Sampsell said he didn’t mind the inflated price of about $25 per gram, and said he appreciated the strict labeling requirements for each purchase.
“The price is fair,” said Sampsell, who had arrived at 8 a.m. “On the street, you don’t know what you’re getting.”
Champagne previously said that he expects to sell out of marijuana this weekend. The store gets its product from Farmer J’s in Spokane Valley. Farmer J’s also supplies retailers in Spokane and Vancouver – both of which quickly sold out of the first batch, said owner Jared Herling. Customers should expect to see more variety and cheaper prices over the next several months, he said.
“It’s going to work itself out,” Herling said Friday. “This is a free market.”
420 Carpenter is one of 24 retailers to receive a state license this week, although not all license holders have opened for business.
One customer at 420 Carpenter included an older Tacoma man who was still waiting for his city’s licensed pot stores to open. The man said he previously had a hard time accessing marijuana because his friends had given it up, and he didn’t know any “young folks” who sold it.
Supplies were thin for stores Friday statewide as initial storewide deliveries sold out. Cannabis City in Seattle, the only shop in Washington’s largest city to legally offer marijuana, ran out of stock on the third day of state-approved retail sales, its owner said.
The store had 11 pounds (4,990 grams) of pot when it opened July 8 and sold out about 5 p.m. local time Thursday, owner James Lathrop said. With taxes, 2-gram bags sold for $46.77, he said.
“We knew it was coming,” Lathrop said. “We didn’t have any guaranteed additional deliveries.”
Earlier this week in Tacoma, on the door at Creative Retail Management in South Tacoma, at 7046 Pacific Ave., a sign proclaimed that the store would open on Monday. On Friday, the sign said the store was still waiting on a shipment with the word “Monday” crossed out.
Rainier on Pine near the intersection of Pine and Center Streets in Tacoma’s Nalley Valley, still plans to open “very soon,” according to a store representative.
Money for Washington
The state issued 90 licenses to pot growers and processors as of last week, according to Brian Smith, a spokesman for the Washington State Liquor Control Board, the agency charged with regulating the industry.
Washington will haul in nearly $150,000 in excise taxes from the first three days of legal marijuana sales – and that doesn’t include state and local sales taxes.
Randy Simmons, the Liquor Control Board’s project manager for legal pot, says that’s not bad, considering the market is in its infancy, with only a few stores open statewide.
The law voters passed in 2012 to legalize pot for adults specifies that excise taxes of 25 percent are imposed when producers sell their product to licensed retail stores, and another 25 percent is imposed when shops sell to consumers.
All excise taxes due from the first day of sales Tuesday totaled $61,604. The figure dipped to $30,924 on Wednesday, and rose to $55,728 on Thursday, for a total of $148,256.
Money for Colorado
Colorado sold less recreational pot in May than in April, the first month-to-month sales decline for the drug that became legal at the beginning of the year.
Tax collections reported by the state Department of Revenue this week showed Colorado sold about $21 million of recreational pot in May. That was down slightly from April, when the 4/20 marijuana holiday was credited in part for a boost in recreational sales to $22 million.
Despite the lower sales numbers, Colorado’s pot tax haul increased in May because of an excise tax that is being phased in. Collections of that 15 percent tax, which pays for school construction, rose from $734,000 in April to $1.1 million in May. Sales taxes collected on other items sold by marijuana shops, such as T-shirts and buttons, also rose slightly.
Including licensing fees and medical marijuana taxes, Colorado collected about $5.7 million from marijuana in May. The state has collected a total of $34.9 million from all marijuana taxes, fees and licenses since recreational sales became legal in January.
Back to work?
Also Friday, One of the employment opportunities Spokane’s first legal pot purchaser said he’d lost as a result of his fame has been reinstated, a company official said.
Mike Boyer, first in-line to buy legal recreational marijuana at a Spokane retailer earlier this week, posted online he’d lost a security job Wednesday and later said he’d also been forced out of his part-time temp employment with LaborReady, a Tacoma-based firm.
Company spokeswoman Stacey Burke said Friday that Boyer remained in the job pool with the firm after clarifying Boyer’s assignment status the day he appeared on TV and in the newspaper.
“We thought he was on the job that day,” Burke said. “When we saw him using a drug, we asked him to come in and take a drug test.”
Boyer did not light up at the store, but did tell multiple news outlets he planned to leave and smoke his purchase with friends. State laws decriminalized the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for recreational use.
Boyer also was asked to take a drug test at Kodiak Security, another part-time employer, he said. He planned not to take the tests because he knew he’d fail, he said Wednesday.
When Boyer contacted LaborReady to tell them he’d taken the day off Tuesday to stand in line, Burke said the company rescinded its demand for a drug test.
“Under the law, he can do that,” Burke said.
The company has what Burke called a “reasonable suspicion” drug-testing policy that calls for a urine sample when the company suspects its employees are under-the-influence on the job. Burke said the policy is for the safety of its employees.
Staff writers Andy Hobbs and C.R. Roberts, Bloomberg News, The Associated Press and The Spokesman-Review contributed to this report