What’s happening with the Vancouver pot shop list

The state Liquor Control Board started sending out letters this week telling pot shops on the lottery list that they need to move forward in the next 60 days or they’ll be bumped off the list.

Two stores in Vancouver are set to get those letters, but the owner of both, through the company RWZ LLC, said he plans to move forward with them and has already set up meetings with the agency.

RWZ Chief Operating Officer Jim Mullen also told me the two general areas where the company plans to open its stores. One will be in east Vancouver and the other in south-central Vancouver, Mullen said.

One of those should open by the end of the year, he added. The other probably not until early next year.

I’m not sure where the other two stores plan to open. High End Marketplace declined to comment for the story and I’ve not been able to contact Mike Graeff of Mike’s Eastside Drugs.

I’ve heard there may be a store preparing to open near Clark College, but I haven’t heard much besides rumors about that so far.

(inside New Vansterdam)
(Are more stores on the way?)

And of course, the city’s two stores that are open and operating are New Vansterdam, 6515 E Mill Plain Blvd, and Main Street Marijuana, 2314 Main St.

My story from today’s paper is attached below.


State: Some prospective pot shops may get the boot

By Sue Vorenberg
The Columbian

Two prospective Vancouver pot shops that haven’t moved forward with the licensing process will have 60 days to do so before they get bumped off the Liquor Control Board list, a representative of the agency said.

The board began sending letters to 56 of those applicants around the state on Wednesday, informing them that they must schedule an interview with a licensing inspector within that time or their applications will be considered closed.

In an email to The Columbian, Mikhail Carpenter, a spokesman for the board, said the two shops in question are owned by RWZ LLC.

RWZ LLCs two prospective stores are among four potential stores in Vancouver that haven’t yet opened, and there are few details about where any of them are in the process. Only two of the six stores allocated for the city have opened so far: Main Street Marijuana and New Vansterdam.

If two stores get bumped off the list, Main Street Marijuana manager Ramsey Hamide will get one of the new slots. He’s two down on the waiting list under the name RKHAM LLC.

(Ramsey Hamide sits in Main Street Marijuana's lounge area on a break from setting up shelves.)
(Ramsey Hamide sits in Main Street Marijuana’s lounge area.)

Hamide, who’s also in the process of buying the license for Main Street Marijuana from the current owner, said if he gets a slot, he could open a second store within about 30 days of receiving notice.

“I’m personally excited by this news,” Hamide said. “I’m already prepared, with a location picked out.”

He declined to give a specific location, but said the potential store would be in the general area near Northeast 164th Avenue and Mill Plain Boulevard.

Jim Mullen, a partner in RWZ LLC, said despite delays, his shops are moving forward and will open.

“We’ve been in contact with the state since May,” Mullen said. “We’ve had a couple of setbacks, but we’re getting closer.”

The company hasn’t yet received a letter from the state, but did get a call requesting that an interview be scheduled, he said. One of the stores will be in east Vancouver and another will be in south-central Vancouver, he said.

“We’ve been trying, and I think I have found some good properties,” Mullen said. “We’re looking for a long-term business, and so we’re going more slowly. We’re walking, not running.”

A representative from High End Marketplace, another city lottery winner, declined to comment on where the store would be located or how close it was to opening.

The owner of Mike’s Eastside Drugs, the final lottery winner, did not return The Columbian’s calls for comment.

So far, the state has issued 57 retail marijuana licenses, and, as of early this month, 32 of the stores had opened. The state reported pending taxes of $3.5 million on more than $14 million in sales since the first stores opened July 8, despite frequent supply shortages that have forced some shops to close intermittently.

Some applicants that won lottery spots may not have found a viable location or financing for their stores, but others may have just been looking for a payday when they applied, said Becky Smith, the Liquor Control Board’s marijuana licensing manager.

“A lot of people thought they’d be able to sell their license — they’d win the lottery and they’d sell it to the highest bidder,” she said. “People were surprised they couldn’t sell their license until they actually got licensed.”

The state is working to issue licenses that will allow more growers to start producing marijuana and more stores to sell it, but Smith said the foot-dragging by the would-be pot shops is slowing the process. Closing down any applications that aren’t likely to move forward would free up spots for applicants who are further down the list, like Hamide.

In addition to scheduling an interview, the applicants are expected to provide information that will allow the investigator to proceed with financial and criminal background checks.

“They need to set up an interview and have a place they’re going to operate,” Smith said. “It’s time to provide us with names — who are their financiers, who are their true parties of interest.”

Along with the two in Vancouver, five applicants in Seattle, seven in unincorporated King County, five in Snohomish County, and two each in Spokane, Yakima and Walla Walla were on the list. No letters were issued in any of the dozens of cities and counties that have adopted temporary or permanent bans on marijuana businesses, including Clark County, Camas, Ridgefield and Washougal.

Gene Johnson of the Associated Press contributed to this story.