OLYMPIA – With more potential marijuana retailers than there are approved locations to sell legal pot, the Washington State Liquor Control Board decided Wednesday to use a lottery to select applicants who will get marijuana retailing licenses.
The independent, double-blind process will take place April 21 through April 25, officials said, and will result in an ordered list of applicants that the agency will use to continue its retail licensing process.
The Liquor Control Board expects to begin issuing retail licenses no later than the first week of July.
Initiative 502, the ballot measure approved by voters that allows the legal, recreational use of marijuana, directed the Liquor Control Board to limit the number of marijuana retail stores by county.
In its rules, the board limited the number of stores statewide to 334. The most populated cities within each county are allotted a maximum number of stores with the remainder at large within the county.
Kitsap County is expected to become home to 10 retail outlets for marijuana sales, with two in Bremerton, one located on Bainbridge Island, and the other seven spread out across the county.
On Bainbridge, the city's planning commission is recommending that retail pot shops be allowed to locate in the city's commercially zoned areas.
The Liquor Control Board contracted with the Social and Economic Sciences Research Center of Washington State University and the accounting firm for Washington’s Lottery, Kraght-Snell of Seattle, to independently produce rank-ordered lists of applicants in each jurisdiction where a lottery is necessary.
State officials noted this week that being identified as the apparent successful applicant is not a guarantee that the selected applicant will receive a license. There are multiple requirements; applicants must pass a criminal history check and financial investigation, as well as have a location that is not within 1,000 feet of a school, park or other area specified by I-502 as places where children congregate.
The Liquor Control Board began pre-qualifying applicants for the lottery the weekend of Feb. 21. Applicants had 30 days to return the basic documents necessary to be eligible for the lottery including verification of: their personal criminal history, their age being 21 or older, that they are Washington state residents, that their business was formed in Washington state, and that they have a location address with a right to real property.
Pre-qualifying packets are currently under review, and initial estimates of returned packets show that despite repeated notices and reminders to applicants, roughly 25 percent did not return the required documents at all.
Of the returned packets, anywhere between 20 to 50 percent are incomplete, thus disqualifying them from the retail lottery.
The Liquor Control Board is expected to post the ordered list of applicants for each jurisdiction in the public records section of the agency website on May 2.