News

Two companies look to open pot stores on island

By NATALIE MARTIN

Two off-island companies are apparently vying to set up recreational marijuana retail stores on Vashon, taking part in the state’s lottery for 11 licenses for such stores that will be granted in unincorporated King County.

Applications were submitted to the state Liquor Control Board for marijuana shops that would be located at Courthouse Square and at the former Vashon Family Practice building in Vashon town.

Last week the LCB held a lottery for 334 licenses it plans to issue for marijuana retail shops statewide. Eleven of those licenses will be given in unincorporated King County, which saw about 35 total applications. Results of the lottery will be announced on Friday.

Mikhail Carpenter, an LCB spokesman, said he couldn’t confirm that the two Vashon applications were a part of the lottery. However, according to documents obtained from the LCB, applicants for both locations submitted the documents required to be pre-screened and enter the lottery, including proof of state residency and proof of rights to the identified properties.

Carpenter said that of about 2,100 retail applications the state received, 1,700 applicants made it through the pre-screening process. In a complex lottery completed by the state last week, random numbers were assigned to applicants in 76 cities and counties where there were more applications than there are licenses available.

“We’re not having one great big lottery. We’re having 76 little lotteries in jurisdictions where it’s appropriate,” Carpenter said.

Being selected in the lottery doesn’t guarantee a license will be granted. Businesses must still complete the application process — providing financial information and business plans — and everyone

involved in the business must pass a background check. If any chosen applicants are unable to fulfill the LCB’s requirements, Carpenter said, the next applicants in line will be considered.

On Vashon, applications to set up shops at the former medical clinic in town and at Courthouse Square were submitted by off-island women who formed LLCs last year and who had originally applied for other locations but then changed their applications to list the Vashon addresses, according to LCB documents. Both women also applied for for shops at other locations in the state. Under state law, one company could operate more than one marijuana retail store in Washington.

Lacey resident Catarina Rowley is listed as the primary applicant for a shop at Courthouse Square.

Rowley, who is listed as the manager of the LLC Ayurveda Works, declined to comment to The Beachcomber. However, Tom Bangasser, who owns Courthouse Square, said Rowley and at least one other business partner are interested in renting the space at Courthouse Square that until recently held the King County Sheriff’s Office substation. They are waiting to find out the results of the lottery, Bangasser said last week.

The substation moved to the county’s new rural services center in Vashon Town in February.

Bangasser said he has worked for about two years with one of the business partners, who rents a space he owns in Seattle’s Central District. He established a liquor store there after liquor sales in the state were privatized, Bangasser said.

Bangasser described the man as an African immigrant who came to the United States to pursue business opportunities. He called him entrepreneurial — he also owns an apartment complex — and said he’s been a responsible tenant in Seattle.

“My experience as his landlord in Seattle has been excellent,” he said. “He’s been successful where many of the other liquor store owners haven’t.”

Ayurveda Works also submitted applications for marijuana retail stores in Seattle and Lacey.

The primary applicant for a shop at the Vashon Family Practice building, Seattle resident Lindsay Buchan, did not return calls from The Beachcomber. According to public documents, Buchan is a member of the LLC Emerald Botanicals and currently works as a hairdresser. Emerald Botanicals also applied to set up shops at locations in Seattle and Rockport, a town in Skagit County.

In a short email to The Beachcomber, Sjardo Steneker, who owns the building, said he had been trying to sell the property for more than two years.

“I would love to sell to someone who will enjoy it as much as I did,” he said.

Steneker signed a letter of intent to purchase that is not a sale agreement but outlines the terms under which Emerald Botanicals would be willing to negotiate a purchase of the property. It lists a potential purchase price of $850,000 and reads that the building would be used for the sale of marijuana and marijuana products and the “rear of the space shall be used for a testing facility.”

Currently an islander is renting the annex building on the north end of the property, a former dentist’s office, for use as a medical marijuana shop. Steneker didn’t say whether the sale of the property would displace that business.

Last summer, a spokesman for the Liquor Control Board suggested that the state may make an effort to assure there’s a recreational marijuana shop on Vashon in order to discourage illegal marijuana sales on the island. At the time he stated that if no one applies to set up a shop on Vashon, the state may assign someone who applied for a shop in another area to set up shop on the island.

Since then, however, LCB spokespeople have said the state won’t make any extra effort to see a store on Vashon. Last week Carpenter, with the LCB, noted that other cities and counties throughout the state have banned marijuana business, meaning illegal sales could be more of a possibility in those places as well.

The LCB plans to begin issuing retail marijuana licenses by the first week in July and expects the first legal sales to be in July as well. The first licenses will be issued in the most populated areas.

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