OLYMPIA The number of retail marijuana stores in the state will nearly double, but there won’t be any new outlets here in the Lower Valley.
The state Liquor and Cannabis Control Board increased the number of retail stores from 334 to a new cap of 556, yesterday.
The board followed staff recommendations to ensure better access for medical patients.
Washington’s increased number of retail marijuana outlets is part of an emergency rule that will be formally announced Jan. 6.
“Our goal was clear; to ensure medical patients have access to the products they need,” board Director Rick Garza of Grandview said. “There will be more storefronts for patients going forward than are available today. In addition, qualified patients can grow their own or join a four-member cooperative.”
However, there will not be more storefronts in the Lower Valley. Yakima County is allotted a total of 15 marijuana outlets – including one each in Grandview and Sunnyside – and that number will not change as a result of the board’s action
Unincorporated areas of Yakima County, and the cities of Grandview and Sunnyside have outright bans on marijuana businesses.
Sunnyside City Manager Don Day said a four-member marijuana cooperative as outlined by Garza would be permitted in the city.
“The ban specifically addresses retail outlets for recreational sales,” Day said. “Council was very careful not to include any kind of medical restrictions… council never wanted to touch the medical issue.”
Dave Rand has a state license to sell marijuana and hoped to open a store in Sunnyside before the city council imposed an outright ban.
Due to a pending lawsuit against the city, Rand declined to say whether he will pursue a four-member cooperative as permitted under state rules.
Besides Yakima County, Benton County will also not receive additional retail outlets from the state. The county has two retail marijuana stores in the Prosser area. The county’s allotment will stay at 10 stores.
However, another neighboring county, Kittitas, will be granted two more stores.
Yesterday’s action follows a state legislature directive earlier this year called the Cannabis Patient Protection Act. The new law requires the board, the state Department of Health and other agencies to draft regulations that integrate the medical marijuana marketplace into the recreational marketplace.