A store on Westside Highway will be one of just a few in the state to start legally selling recreational marijuana Tuesday.
Freedom Market, at 820A Westside Highway, received its license from the state Liquor Control Board on Monday and expects to be stocked and open at noon.
“I expect to sell out, unfortunately,” co-owner Kathy Nelson said. “No matter what supply I had, I would expect to sell out. Then it’s just a matter of hit and miss with suppliers.”
Another 23 retail stores throughout the state got licenses Monday, though not all of them will likely be opening Tuesday due to city or county restrictions, product availability or other concerns.
A second store in Cowlitz County, Westside420 Recreational at 4503 Ocean Beach Highway, also received its license Monday. It was unclear if it would open Tuesday. Numerous calls were not returned, and the shop was closed Monday. An Associated Press story reported that the shop may open Friday.
The two licensed stores in Vancouver won’t be open Tuesday, so Freedom Market will have the Southwest Washington market cornered, if just for a few days.
The licenses come 20 months after Washington voters approved Initiative 502, which set off a scramble to regulate the psychoactive plant for recreational users 21 and older.
State law allows a customer to buy up to an ounce per visit. Freedom Market will charge $25 per gram (there are about 28 grams in an ounce), or $33 with taxes. The price is high compared to illegal street costs in part to a high demand and low supply to start. Nelson said she thinks the cost is secondary to the assurances of a regulated pot market.
“It’s legal — it’s not backdoor, there’s no risk of being arrested, it’s all gone through testing and customers aren’t risking someone putting something else on it,” she said. “It’s packaged by the producer once it’s been tested, and the packaging isn’t opened until it’s brought home.”
Nelson and Hillman also run Maranda’s Alternative Meds, two local medical marijuana dispensaries that operate separately from the recreational market. There, cannabis goes for about $10 a gram and is displayed in jars and weighed out on scales.
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All marijuana sold at recreational retail outlets will be pre-packaged, air-tight and child-proof, so the scales and the scents will be gone from the equation.
“We want (customers) to know it’s retail — it’s like walking into a candle shop. It’s nothing to be afraid of, it’s perfectly safe, legal, and we’re being responsible and following all the rules.”
Those rules include no advertisements aside from a single 1,600-square-inch sign that can’t include any reference to pot or cannabis symbols. Nelson said they’re playing it safe by not even putting up a website or Facebook account.
“They (the liquor board) haven’t said we can’t, but they haven’t said we can,” she said.
Regardless, Hillman said a line will likely form out the door starting at noon Tuesday as a few people at a time are ID’d and let in to the retail area.
“We will run out (Tuesday),” Nelson said of the limited supply in the state. “It took such a long time for the Liquor Control Board to start licensing (growers and processors). ...Everything should be smoother by August.”
For now, just smokeable marijuana will be ready for sale, as edibles such as pot-infused brownies or cannabis coffee have another layer of regulation to go through. Many other methods of delivering THC — the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that can be concentrated into tinctures or hashish — haven’t been approved either.
The limited supply will put a limit on Freedom Market’s hours, but eventually, Nelson expects to be open as long as she legally can be, 8 a.m. to midnight.
The soft blues of the carpet and walls and cool, neutral air of the small shop were being watched at all angles by cameras, one of dozens of details that came together in recent weeks.
“We aced our final inspection — (the liquor board) took one look at our cameras and said, ‘Wow, you’ve got more than anyone else,’ ” Nelson said. “They told us we were the fastest inspection they’d done: They called us the A Team.”