SPOKANE, Wash. -- Pot shop owners said the state needs more restrictions on how many pot shops there can be. Some retailers seem to think there are a few too many recreational marijuana shops and their business is suffering because of it.
Sam Calvert got in on the ground floor of the marijuana industry in Spokane. He opened his shop Green Star Cannabis just after weed was legalized. He said it is difficult running a marijuana shop with all the tight regulations and high taxes. It does not help, he said, with the fact that the number of pot shops in the area has doubled in the last few years.
"All you do is see sales plummet,” Calvert said.
According to a spokesperson from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, when weed was first legalized the state allowed 334 retail licenses. Eighteen of those were in Spokane County. Eight licenses were allocated to Spokane, seven licenses were allocated to Spokane County at large and three licenses were allowed in Spokane Valley. In 2015, state lawmakers merged the medical and recreational marijuana industries. They allowed for 222 additional state licenses. This doubled the amount of licenses in Spokane and the county, but Spokane Valley's allocation stayed the same. So there are 33 licenses issued in the Spokane area right now. That is the cap for the area.
But still that is a few too many for Calvert.
“You're going to what, allocate a certain number of licenses and double them and let people pop up wherever they want. I just don't think it makes any sense,” said Calvert.
Calvert is concerned there is not enough business to go around.
"There's just not enough people,” said Calvert. "Overall your daily consumer, your weekly consumer, that's just not changing."
Cinder owner Justin Peterson has three locations. Two of them are in Spokane and one in Spokane Valley. He agreed there are a few too many, but his biggest concern as a business owner is how much they are taxed. There is a 37 percent excise tax plus a 8.8 percent sales tax at the state level. Peterson said they cannot write off anything like payroll, office supplies or travel, so they pay an additional 35 percent in federal taxes a year.
“My fear with the current market is where it is to taxes and how we are taxed,” Peterson said. “So when you have a saturated market or additional stores opening,our profit shrinks, because it spreads between all the stores."
Peterson said he would never want to see any stores close.
“I think it’s great having these additional stores. It creates more jobs in our market. I think that's fantastic to always be able to create jobs. At the same time it does hurt the businesses that are in here,” Peterson explained.
While local retailers would like to see a few less weed shops, local growers could use a few more. Cip Paulsen, owner of local marijuana growing and processing facility Grow State, said there are too many people growing and processing weed and not enough businesses to sell to.
According to the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board website they are not accepting new licenses for retailers, producers or processors.