Some people mistakenly believe that the Washington State Liquor Control Board owns the stores dispensing cannabis to the public for recreational use. This is not true. There is no government-owned cannabis or cannabis-distribution in Washington. At least, there wasn’t until the tiny town of North Bonneville opened its own state-licensed retail recreational marijuana store this month. North Bonneville is officially the nation’s only municipal government entity selling cannabis for-profit.
And North Bonneville is serious about its entry into the cannabis marketplace.
The Washington Post describes North Bonneville as “a drab collection of buildings thrown up in the 1970s when its 1,000 residents were relocated to make way for the expansion of the nearby Bonneville Dam.” The Washington Post reports that the City was struggling financially and that the lure of I-502 profits coupled with further potential profits from marijuana tourism was just too much to resist.
The City’s pot shop is called The Cannabis Corner and it sells “dozens of strains of marijuana and in several different forms, from pungent buds to infused cookies and coffee. It sells glass bongs and rolling papers.” Though many cities and counties in Washington have banned or severely limited marijuana operations, North Bonneville’s Public Development Authority got right to work on how to participate in marijuana legalization. The City’s Mayor, Don Stevens, supported the idea from the get-go. Stevens is “58 [years old], a former Marine with wire-rim glasses, a beard and curly gray hair along the sides of his head. As a teenager in 1970s Oregon, he joined the pro-marijuana group NORML, believing that legalization was just around the corner.”
Though not all City residents were initially on board with establishing a marijuana retail shop, dissension dissipated during a state regulatory approval process that took more than a year. Since federal drug laws render cannabis illegal, the City could not run the store directly. Instead, in November 2013, it passed an ordinance creating a public development authority to runs and manage the marijuana store. The five-member authority is responsible for all retail store business decisions and for divvying up and distributing store profits. The authority’s first line item action with its initial pot profits? Renovating the town’s run-down playground.
Many are likely wondering whether government cannabis is cheaper than that sold by private companies. So far, marijuana from The Cannabis Corner has been sold at between $15 to $18 a gram, which is apparently significantly less than nearby privately owned retail stores, all of which are held to the same strict regulatory standards and robust excise taxes.
North Bonneville has done a good of being transparent with the public and its own citizens about the Cannabis Corner. It has not hesitated to be upfront about both its intentions and its operations by, among other things, using an FAQ page on the city’s website to address issues head on. By way of example, one of our personal favorite North Bonneville FAQs regarding The Cannabis Corner is the following:
Question: Won’t people leave our town because of this?
Answer: Perhaps. And we would hate to see good people go just to avoid this issue, for they will have to leave the state of Washington as well as North Bonneville. We have to place our allegiance with the deserving folk who don’t or can’t leave. Indications are that many fine folk will be moving here because of the peripheral economic opportunities likely to grow up around this business.”
Well said, North Bonneville.