Marijuana “lottery” winners


Rick Sorrels

“Winners” in the state marijuana license lottery were announced by the State Liquor Control Board (LCB) on May 2.

The state will issue a total of 334 retail licenses for Washington state. Pierce County is allotted 31 licenses. Of those 31, Tacoma gets eight, Lakewood two, Puyallup two, University Place one, Bonney Lake one, and the remainder of Pierce County 17. Smaller cities, like Gig Harbor are lumped in with the 17 for Pierce County “at large.”

The licenses are for retail stores that sell marijuana for recreational purposes, as authorized by I-502, which the voters approved last November.

The lottery determined priority placement within each group. There were 45 applicants for the 17 licenses for Pierce County at large. The lottery assigned priority numbers one through 45. If an applicant fails to meet the licensing criteria, including FBI background checks and many other factors yet to be scrutinized, he will be denied a license and another candidate moves up the priority list for the 17.

Of the top 17 for Pierce County at large, one is on the Key Peninsula, and seven are in Gig Harbor, with five of those showing a single address and two showing a second address. The statutes do not allow “joint” use. Each business must have a different set of walls and a different entry door. There were many instances where the same person submitted multiple applications under different business names to gain an advantage in the lottery.

Brian Smith, the media spokesperson for the LCB said, “The license application specified a specific location. If it turns out that the address does not exist, or if the applicant does not have a legal right to use the address specified, the license will be denied.”

The LCB will scrutinize the store location and every individual involved in the business during the application process.

The statutes require denial of a license if there was one felony conviction in the last 10 years, or two misdemeanor convictions within the last three years for any person involved in the business. The store cannot be located within 1,000 feet of any elementary school, secondary school, playground, recreation center, recreation facility, child care center, public park, public transit center, library, or game arcade. The 1,000 feet is measured “as the crow flies”, not as the car drives.

The courts have ruled that county and municipal governments can establish zoning ordinances to further restrict, or prohibit, marijuana stores. Pierce County has a county-wide ban on marijuana stores throughout the unincorporated areas. Gig Harbor City Council voted a six-month moratorium while it decides how it will act.

Statutes require that the LCB notify local governments when an application is complete (but not yet approved), at which time the local jurisdictions can influence the LCB’s decision.

The Peninsula School District is a municipal government. The school board has decided to take a strong stand against any marijuana stores within its jurisdiction. Citizens can voice their objections to the LCB, also.

The LCB expects to start issuing retail licenses no later than the first week of July.

For more information see RCW Chapter 69.50, WAC Chapter 314-55, and the LCB website,

The Gig Harbor City Council will take public comments regarding zoning for recreational marijuana businesses at the City Civic Center, 3510 Grandview Street, Gig Harbor on June 9, at 5:30 p.m.