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Ready for (pot) business

Ready for (pot) business

Marijuana shops scramble to arrange first-day inventory

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WASHINGTON STATE

SEATTLE (AP) — With the clock ticking down to the start of legal weed sales in Washington state, store owners hoping to start selling Tuesday are consumed by details as they try to make sure there's pot on the shelves.

At Cannabis City, the only recreational marijuana shop that was ready to open in Seattle, owner James Lathrop has hired an events company to provide crowd control, arranged for a food truck and free water for those who might spend hours waiting outside, and rented a portable toilet.

He can only hope his initial 10-pound supply is enough to stone the multitude, and says he may limit purchases to ensure that everyone can go home with at least a 2-gram package of history.

A hundred miles to the north, John Evich is trying to figure out how to get the marijuana to his store in Bellingham quickly once it's approved for a license, which should happen today. He has considered everything from loading the pot onto his commercial crab boat and rushing it across Puget Sound to renting a helicopter.

One year and eight months after voters in Washington and Colorado stunned much of the world by legalizing marijuana, the sale of heavily regulated and taxed cannabis begins here this week, with the first few stores opening amid talk of high prices, shortages and rationing. Sales began in Colorado at the start of the year.

As many as 20 shops in Washington, out of a planned 300-plus, should receive their licenses today, officials say. They could open at 8 a.m. the next day, but how many planned to be up and running remained unclear.

Some shops were frantically calling growers, trying to ensure that they'd have enough product. More than 2,600 people applied to grow the marijuana that will be sold, but fewer than 100 have been approved by the State Liquor Control Board's swamped licensing investigators.

Even those who already made agreements to buy marijuana — at exorbitant prices, in many cases — weren't sure when it would arrive. What time the stores receive their licenses will dictate when they can place their orders with the growers, and thus how soon the growers can transport it to the stores.

Once the pot arrives, the stores must verify their inventory and enter it into the state tracking system before it can be sold.

In Seattle, among those who planned to buy some of the first pot at Cannabis City was Alison Holcomb, the lawyer who drafted Washington's law. She said it was a good opportunity to remind people of the arguments for ending nearly a century of prohibition, including keeping nonviolent marijuana users out of jail, directing profits away from criminal groups and ending racial disparities in who gets busted.

"No one thought legalization could happen in our lifetime," she said. "I think this is going to be a little overwhelming for me."

"No one thought legalization could happen in our lifetime. I think this is going to be a little overwhelming for me." — Alison Holcomb, the lawyer who drafted pot law

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