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The Evergreen

Seattle Times coverage of pot policy, culture and lifestyle.

June 27, 2014 at 12:15 PM

What you should know about legal pot stores in Washington

The state hopes parking-lot pot transactions with sketchy dealers die out in favor of trips to your state-regulated pot shop. Here’s what you need to know about stores:

Where are stores located?

The short answer: The Liquor Control Board (LCB) has licensed 24 stores so far. Here are their locations:

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The long answer: We know where 24 stores are located, but that’s just the beginning of the story.

Because so many people applied to hawk pot, the LCB held a lottery to determine who would receive the first licenses provided they’re following all of the LCB’s rules. Lottery winners in disallowed locations are disqualified, according to the LCB.

Here’s a map of those who won the lottery:

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Map: Represented are the locations of pot-store lottery winners in Washington as well as potential pot-store locations in communities that did not have enough applicants to warrant a lottery. (Map by Matt Kreamer / Evan Bush)

As you can see, in Seattle there’s a large concentration of stores in SoDo, and a mini-cluster in Ballard.

Before proprietors receive their license, the lottery winners (or golden ticket winners — check out how much potrepreneurs think a license is worth) must have their financial and operations plans approved, pass criminal background checks and pass a final inspection once their stores are ready for market.

Where CAN’T there be stores?

What do pot stores and sex offenders have in common? The state doesn’t want them near kids.

Initiative 502 was very direct in its attempts to keep pot out of kids’ hands. Here’s how the Liquor Board puts it:

“You cannot set up a store within 1000 feet of any elementary or secondary school, playground, recreation center or facility, child care center, public park, public transit center, library, or game arcade that allows minors to enter.”

One caveat — the buffer must be 1,000 feet as the crow flies. Even if a river separates a school and potential pot shop, there still has to be 1,000 feet between them (kids can swim, you know).

Because dense neighborhoods usually have kids running around, certain parts of the Seattle will be veritable pot deserts. For example, Capitol Hill’s hipster haven will not be serviced by a pot store, because there isn’t much, if any, territory where a store would be allowed.

How many stores will there be?

The state said it would initially only license 334 stores, but that number might drop to 305 because no one applied to sell pot in 29 locations that the LCB had allotted licenses. Seattle will have 21 stores.

How can they advertise?

Don’t expect leafy green billboards any time soon. Retailers are only allowed a single sign with their businesses’ name on it. That sign can’t be bigger than 1600 square inches (about 11 square feet). To prevent access to kids, advertising isn’t allowed anywhere pot shops aren’t (schools, parks, etc. like we discussed above). Metro buses won’t be getting a green makeover — you can’t advertise there, either.

And newspapers? Well, if you were investing in The Stranger expecting pot to be a financial windfall, now would be the time to sell. Because newspapers are distributed to public places, pot shops can’t advertise in them, reports The Inlander. What about TV or radio? The Inlander says it’s unlikely because the Feds regulate the airwaves. So far, TV stations in Colorado have not aired commercials for pot shops, according to Ad Age.

You won’t be able to window shop for weed, either. Storefronts can’t have window displays and must keep the goods behind a counter.

Who can go in?

Anyone who is 21 or older can patronize a pot shop, but that’s it. In fact, stores are required to post signs that say, “Persons under 21 years of age not permitted on these premises.”

When can stores open?

Early risers, have no fear, you can wake and bake (or just stock up) when pot shops can be open at 8 a.m. Stores must close at 12 a.m. They can be open seven days a week.

What products can they sell?

Pot shops can only sell pot, pot-infused products and paraphernalia. Edibles and liquids (hash oil and pot-infused beverages) must be pre-packaged in childproof containers.

Keep in mind, retailers are only allowed to sell, and not process, pot. That means the brownies come out of the oven somewhere else, and you can’t buy them direct.

Can I sample?

Only with your nose. Retailers are allowed to keep a small sniffing jar on site, but the rest of the product must remain behind the counter.

What about delivery?

Just because you can have your pot brought to your door by a woodland creature, doesn’t mean you should — or that it’s legal.

Only state-licensed businesses can sell pot, and delivery isn’t allowed. So far, we haven’t heard of Seattle police busting delivery services, but they could.

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