Tacoma pot: Don’t look for marijuana on sale Tuesday when state allows first legal retail sales

Unless customers want to drive to Seattle or Kelso, those parties celebrating the opening day of retail marijuana sales will just have to wait.

Where more than 2,000 enterprises applied with the state for a retail license, and where 334 were finally chosen – some by lottery – the State Liquor Control Board early Monday announced the names of 24 stores throughout the state that could open for business on Tuesday at 8 a.m.

The list included two stores in Tacoma: Rainier at 3111 S. Pine St. in Nalley Valley, and Creative Retail Management at 7046 Pacific Ave. in South Tacoma.

Neither of these stores appears to be prepared to open.

Other cities and towns where licenses have been finally approved include Arlington, Bellevue, Bellingham (two locations), Bingen, Camano Island, East Wenatchee, Ephrata, Kelso, Lacey, Langley, Longview, Okanagan, Prosser, Seattle, Spokane (three locations), Union Gap, Vancouver (two locations) and Winthrop.

Not all will open on Tuesday.

“My supplier has been delayed about three days,” said Margie Lemberger of Margie’s Pot Shop in Bingen, just across the Columbia River from Hood River, Ore.

“I’m counting on my friend Susy at Wild Weed,” Lemberger said of her local marijuana grower. “She has several batches. I’m thinking Friday.”

Meanwhile, Tim Thompson of Prosser said Monday his store will be open on Tuesday morning but that it would serve only a limited volume of customers.

“We’ll limit it to 300 a day,” he said.

He can thus preserve his current, limited supply.

In Tacoma, the Creative Retail Management location – in a strip mall bookended between stores called “Liquor & Wine” and “Smoke & Beer Plus” – appeared not ready for business on Monday. No one answered a knock at the door and phone calls to the business were not returned.

At Rainier on Pine on Monday, workers were busy readying the former medicinal marijuana dispensary for retail trade.

But not for an opening on opening day.

“We don’t want to open our doors and not be able to deliver what we’ve promised,” said Paul Schrag a Rainier consultant and spokesman.

He said Rainier’s suppliers were unable to deliver their product by Tuesday morning.

“They said it would be cured by a certain date, it would be tested by a certain date. As we got close, it was, ‘We’re not so sure now,’” he said.

“We had a couple of vendors who had committed,” he said. “That was our safety net. Our safety net unraveled. I expected some of this. I didn’t expect this shortage.”

It’s a matter of best-laid-plans running afoul of both expectations and a statewide business model that is being invented as it tries to mature.

“Simultaneously people are getting financing together, and developing relationships with producers and processors. This is a complex, difficult business,” Schrag said.

He was unsure when Rainier would open.

It could be later this week, it will be sometime in July.

Meanwhile in Lacey, Thurston County’s first recreational pot retailer will make history when it opens at noon Friday at 422 Carpenter Road S.E.

The business is 420 Carpenter and the owner is 32-year-old Chad Champagne, who for the past 10 years has worked as a ticket broker, selling tickets for professional sporting events, concerts and other attractions.

Just like the ticket business, Chad viewed the recreational pot business as just another business opportunity, he said Monday.

He expects Friday and the first weekend to be busy for the business, so busy that he expects to sell out of marijuana. He hopes he can replenish his supplies in time, but if not, due to the limited supply provided by producers and processors, he might shut down for a week or two in order to restock.

Monday was a busy day, too. He received about 150 phone calls, half of them from the media, half from customers and one from a person wanting to know which bus line to take to his location, he said.

420 Carpenter, which is in Lacey’s urban growth area but not the city, measures 1,700 square feet with 500 square feet devoted to the retail store. He plans to sell two-gram and four-gram bags of pot, paraphernalia such as pipes and bongs and possibly some pre-rolled joints on opening day. His price is $18.40 per gram, but that’s before taxes. After taxes, it will sell for $25 per gram.

But that’s only a temporary price, Champagne said. As more growers and processors come online and the supply of marijuana improves, he expects his prices to drop to the point that they will meet or beat the black market price.

“I don’t want to see them at that price,” he said about his $25 per gram starting point, “and in the long run it won’t be.”

Champagne declined to name his supplier, except to say that he is buying his pot from Eastern Washington. He’s open to working with other suppliers, too, he said. Growers and processors haven’t had enough time to cultivate their product which has reduced the available supply, Champagne said.

A Seattle business called Privateer Holdings, through a subsidiary called Arbormain, is working to improve the pot supply. The business has proposed a 200,000-square-foot facility in Hawks Prairie that would be leased out to processors and growers, said Patrick Moen, a managing director for Privateer.

But for opening day and Pierce County residents who wish to celebrate July 8 as a historic occasion, the easiest trip will take them to Seattle’s Cannabis City at 2733 4th Ave. S.

For Thurston County revelers, the day could mean a journey to Kelso, to Freedom Market at 820A Westside Highway.

Other than that, given the latest weather report, it might be a good day for an early morning drive to Prosser.

Staff writer Rolf Boone contributed to this report.

Related stories from Tacoma News Tribune