Retail Marijuana Comes to the KP


Sara Thompson

The bud business is back on the Key Peninsula. Photo: Ted Olinger, KP News

Sweet Jane opened its doors Dec. 1 at the Harvest Time market/gas station on State Route 302 in Wauna. The store currently sells recreational marijuana, but will also offer medicinal products as soon as they are made available by the state.

Owner Jennifer Strom has been pleased with the reception. “People were keeping their eyes on the building, and we have done better than I expected in the early weeks,” she said.

In 2014, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board held a lottery to determine who could obtain a retail marijuana sales license. Strom, who has a background in marketing, entered the lottery and won a license to operate a business in unincorporated Pierce County. She planned to open a store in Fife, but a moratorium on marijuana sales was imposed and she moved her location to Puyallup, where it opened in January 2016. Strom had to close that store in July because of zoning issues and began looking for an appropriately zoned site. She was pleased to find the Key Peninsula location.

“I’m from the area,” Strom said. “I used to live in Lakebay, and now I am in Gig Harbor.”

Sweet Jane has eight employees. Some transferred from the Puyallup store and some are local residents. If business grows, Strom hopes to expand the staff.

Sweet Jane is endorsed for medical marijuana, which comes with several requirements: The staff must complete a training program, the store must carry products that have been identified as medical grade by the Washington State Department of Health, and they must issue medical use recognition cards and enter patients and providers in a database administered by the DOH.

Strom has worked to meet all those requirements. Having medical marijuana available to those who need it has been a priority. The store can issue medical cards, allowing cardholders to purchase products without paying sales tax, purchase up to three times the current legal limit for recreational users, purchase high-THC-infused products, grow more than four marijuana plants in their residence, and have full protection from arrest, prosecution and legal penalties under state law.

Initiative 502, which passed in 2012, led to a law that requires licenses for all sellers, distributors and producers of marijuana and allows anyone over 21 years old to possess 1 ounce for recreational use. The state allows licensed growers to cultivate marijuana, but does not permit personal growing in one's home except for medical use.

Federal law continues to treat marijuana like every other controlled substance, such as cocaine and heroin. It is classified as a Schedule I drug, meaning the federal government views cannabis as highly addictive and having no medical value. In 2013, however, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a memorandum stating that as long as those states seeking to legalize marijuana were able to address certain priorities (limiting access to children, keeping gangs and organized crime out of the industry and minimizing the externalities on other states), then the federal government would exercise its prosecutorial discretion to permit those state-level experiments to proceed. It is not clear how the DOJ, under the Trump administration, will proceed.

Strom said that the state has not made medical marijuana products available yet, but as soon as they are, Sweet Jane will stock them.

One zoning requirement for marijuana retail stores is that they must be at least 1,000 feet from schools, parks and libraries. Strom said that the Gateway Park expansion just west of her location may bring the park boundary to less than 1,000 feet from the store, but the application for the store’s license was approved before the park expansion occurred. Strom has been reassured that her store can remain open when the park expands.