In a plan to fold medical marijuana into the state’s retail system, officials called for adding 222 retail stores, including 21 in Seattle.
Trying to fold medical marijuana into the state’s retail system, state Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) staff are recommending an additional 222 retail stores around Washington, including 21 in Seattle.
If adopted on Jan. 6 by the LCB’s three board members, the Wednesday proposal could double the number of stores in Seattle and increase the statewide total from 334 to 556 stores.
In all, King County could see 53 additional stores. Bellevue could double its number of stores from four to eight. Ten other King County cities could see one or two more stores.
“Our goals was clear: to ensure medical patients have access to the products they need,” said LCB Director Rick Garza.
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To sell medical marijuana, stores will need a special endorsement from the state. If you add current retail stores seeking such an endorsement to the number of proposed new stores, it’s possible patients could see more stores selling medical marijuana in the future than today.
The new caps were drawn in part from a study of the market by consultants. Their report estimated that marijuana is a $1.3 billion industry in Washington. They concluded that 331 medical dispensaries were operating in the state and that medical marijuana had 37 percent of the market.
Two counties — King and Pierce — accounted for more than half of medical sales.
The state’s recreational system captured 35 percent of the market, the BOTEC firm consultants calculated, considerably higher than previous estimates.
They said the illicit market stood at 28 percent.
Some question whether Seattle will have enough stores given that there are now 22 retail stores licensed and about 50 medical dispensaries open — and that’s after the city’s recent crackdown closed down 60 medical storefronts.
“It’s too small of an allotment for Seattle,” said Philip Dawdy, a lobbyist for several dispensaries.
The City Council is wrestling with a proposal by Mayor Ed Murray that would make more land available for legal pot business in the city, while trying to keep them from clustering in specific areas, such as Rainier Avenue South.
Councilmember Bruce Harrell argued at a Tuesday meeting the council should carefully consider the impact of licensing more stores in neighborhoods, particularly southeast Seattle, where dispensaries had clustered.
“This is going to change our city, one can argue for the good, by the way. But this needs to be done thoughtfully,” said Harrell, who represents South Seattle’s District 2.
More community outreach is needed, Harrell said, and the council should apply a race-and-social justice analysis to its decision.
Despite Harrell’s points, a council committee approved most of the mayor’s proposal.
But when the full council takes up the plan early next year, the politics may be different as seven of nine council members will have been elected, for the first time, by geographic districts.