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Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board Issues 14-Day Shutdown Notices to Seattle Dispensaries

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The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) shocked dispensary owners in Seattle last week with the delivery of warning notices indicating that businesses have fourteen days to either obtain a cannabis license from the state or shutdown.

In 2015 the Washington State Legislature passed SB 5052, the Cannabis Patient Protection Act. This law was formed as a response to the lack of statewide regulations on Washington’s infamous medical marijuana “gray market.”

After the law passed, dispensaries around the state that met particular criteria were given the option to apply for licenses under Washington’s legal recreational cannabis law, Initiative 502. The deadline for all retailers in the state to have a license is July 1, 2016. Based on the LCB’s recent actions, however, it appears that certain cities and counties may be seeing that deadline preempted.

Seattle was originally allotted 21 retail cannabis locations. Recently the LCB increased that number to 42. However, they report that as of December 16, 2015, there are 47 licensed (or pending licenses) recreational stores in Seattle. That means there are five prospective licensees who will be left out in the cold.

According to LCB spokesperson Mikheal Carpenter, the letter was sent as a courtesy to inform shops that when the 42 license limit is reached, the remaining shops will have fourteen days to shut down or be in violation of state law. The ominous message included instructions to sign, indicating that owners realize they may not get a license, and will assume any liability associated with future violations from staying open

Jeremy Kaufman, a longtime medical marijuana dispensary owner in Seattle, tells KING 5 that he already started upgrading his store while waiting through the licensing process. He says, “This is stuff we were going to do already.” As the first taxpaying shop in the city of Seattle, however, he is shocked that all of his effort may go to waste if he is not chosen for a license. He is also worried about the employees who would lose their jobs if he is forced to close.

One hopeful development is that Seattle’s mayor Ed Murray disagrees with the move by the LCB. He wrote the Board his own letter, declaring that the cap unfairly discriminates against shops like Kaufman’s, who have operated in good faith in the past by paying their taxes.

At the moment, the LCB has no plans to increase Seattle’s cap, which may potentially leave patients without their medicine and destroy jobs.