The Washington State Liquor Control Board has approved the lottery process it will use to determine which of the 2,100 applicants in the state will receive licenses to open recreational marijuana retail shops.
The process will begin with an audit firm (the one that has long been the accounting firm for the state lottery) randomly assigning a number to each applicant in any city or county with more applications than allowed stores. Then, Washington State University's Social and Economic Sciences Research Center will randomly choose from those numbers, creating a numbered list of applicants for each city and county. That list will determine the order in which licenses are given in that jurisdiction. To actually receive a license, applicants will have to pass final inspections.
So, for example, the board has received 101 applications for stores inside the city of Spokane, but its rules dictate that only eight will be allowed. So the audit firm will first randomly assign numbers to each of the 101 applications. Then, WSU will randomly draw from those numbers and create an ordered list of all applicants. That list will determine the order in which applicants are given the chance to get a license. If any of the first eight on the list don't pass all final state inspections — including background and financial investigations and checks on the location's proximity to things like schools and parks — the next applicant on the list will be given the chance to do so until eight have been licensed.
The board expects to post the ordered lists of applicants for each city and county on its website May 2 and then begin the final inspection processes. The state's most populous cities and those without bans or moratoria on marijuana will get priority and the board hopes to begin issuing store licenses by the first week of July.
Applicants are currently undergoing prescreening by the state, which will be complete by the time this process starts on April 21. Applicants were given 30 days to turn in basic prescreening information (criminal histories and proof of age, residency, store location and business registration). That window has now closed and about 25 percent of applicants returned none of the required information. Of those who did return prescreening packets, the board says at least 20-50 percent of them were incomplete.
Meanwhile, as the board has been issuing the other types of licenses in recent weeks — to grow and process marijuana — some of those applicants have reached the final inspection stage and then not actually been ready for inspections, says WSLCB spokesman Mikhail Carpenter.
"It's kind of indicative of how a lot of this has gone," Carpenter says. "Sometimes the response just isn't what we had hoped for."