When Vancouver resident Jon Britt and his girlfriend, Calista Crenshaw, won a Cowlitz County retail marijuana license in the 2014 state lottery, it seemed like perfect timing.
Angler’s Workshop, the fishing supply store Britt’s family had owned in Woodland for 30 years, was being sold to a Colorado company, and the building seemed the ideal spot for a recreational pot shop.
But the Woodland City Council thought otherwise, and it banned recreational pot stores in city limits. Britt and Crenshaw, who had been required to get the store set up to open before receiving their state license, saw their dreams go up in smoke.
“We were sitting with a license we could never use,” said Crenshaw, 36. “We thought we were done.”
Then, the winds shifted in their favor.
In October, the state began allowing the transfer of licenses from jurisdictions that don’t allow retail pot sales to those that do. On Dec. 16, the state Liquor and Cannabis Board recommended boosting the number of retail pot shops statewide from 334 stores to 556 stores to accommodate the state’s alignment of the medical marijuana market with the existing recreational market. The expectation is that medical pot users will turn to retail pot shops for their marijuana supply and that dispensaries will shut down by July 1.
The Liquor and Cannabis Board followed up in January by increasing Vancouver’s allocation from six to 12 retail licenses. The increase was based on a formula in which the state’s 10 most densely populated cities would receive double the number of retail pot licenses distributed in the 2014 lottery. Smaller cities received a 75 percent boost in licenses.
However, the Vancouver City Council, saying 12 licenses was too drastic a jump, split the difference Feb. 1 and set a limit of nine. The expansion presented an opening for Britt and Crenshaw, who transferred their state license to Vancouver, then applied to the city to open one of the three stores.
Now the couple are preparing to open High-5 Cannabis on March 12 at 6511 N.E. 137th Ave. in Orchards, which is about 5 miles from any other pot store.
“It’s such an exciting new business,” said Britt, 44, who will oversee a staff of nine. “It’s being on the forefront of something huge.”
Washington has been in the forefront of that huge new business since November 2012, when state voters approved Initiative 502 legalizing recreational marijuana. The state Liquor Control Board started taking license applications in December 2013 and began the approval process in early 2014. It allowed unlimited applications for growers and processors in the state, but limited the number of retail stores, of which 15 were allotted for Clark County.