UNION GAP, WA.- The price of marijuana continues to drop in retail shops across the state, so we checked in with two of the local shops in Union Gap to see how they’re adapting to the changing times.
Even though prices have dropped to an all time low across the state over the past year, local owners say their products are still flying off the shelves.
When Station 420, opened their doors in 2014 they were selling a gram for around $40.00.
“It was tough, the supply was short, we didn’t have very many options and it was expensive,” owner Adam Markus explained.
Likewise owner of the The Slow Burn, Ken Weaver, says they’ve seen popular items like oils, waxes, and edibles, known as “concentrates” drop as well, “They’ve gone from a $150.00 a gram when we opened, now to $40.00 a gram, so it’s just crazy how far those have dropped.”
Local retailers say the prices dropping is thanks to an increase in demand. For the first time since 2013 Washington state accepted applications for marijuana retail shops. That in turn has caused significant growth in the market.
“When concentrates were $150.00 a gram you know we made the same margin of that as when we are selling it at $40.00 a gram, but we’re selling a thousand times more of it at the lower price,” Weaver said.
Some shops did see a loss in profit when the the state changed their marijuana taxes from 25% to 37% last summer.
However with retail prices now similar or sometimes lower than those you’ll find on the black market the profits are back up.
“Obviously if I can supply the same product for less money it’s great for everybody,” Markus said.
Even if the prices dip further these owners say they don’t see it effecting them negatively, their goal is to stay one step ahead of the ones selling it on the street.
“I think long term we have to be an affordable alternative to the black market if we’re not we don’t have any future,” Weaver told us.
The Slow Burn says on average they’re able to take in $1.5 million a year in profits and they don’t see that slowing down anytime soon.
Likewise Station 420 has seen such a rise in sales that they’ll be expanding their store in the coming months.
It strengthens the government-to-government relationshipbetween the tribe and the state government. It basically says, ‘You might be the state and you have said that marijuana is legal here, but we’re not going to apply as a business and get a business license from the state.’ That wouldn’t make any sense for us. We worked to negotiate a compact with the state that was an official government-to-government relationship, and to look at making sure we got to keep the tax revenue because we’re operating [marijuana businesses] here and the tax revenue should come to us. It’s more money that goes into essential government services for us. It took two years to get to this point, and the fact that we’re here at this point is amazing. We’ve gotten to take a stand for other tribes in the state and country. As it gets legalized in more and more states, more and more tribes are going to be having this opportunity, and we’re glad to lead.
The Suquamish Tribe and Squaxin Island Tribe have legalized marijuana and in September signed 10-year compacts with the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board; Squaxin’s retail marijuana store, “Elevation,” opened for business November 12 on the Squaxin Reservation. It is believed to be the first marijuana retailer owned by a Native nation in the U.S. “Agate Dreams,” to be operated by a Suquamish Tribe business entity, is expected to open in early December on Highway 305, near Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort.
For Native nations near urban areas, legalizing marijuana use has some advantages. Had marijuana possession and use remained illegal under Suquamish law, enforcement on the 7,657-acre reservation – where 3,581 acres are owned by non-Indians – “would have been quite complex,” Suquamish Police Chief Mike Lasnier told the North Kitsap Herald (county sheriff’s deputies and Suquamish police are customarily dispatched to the same calls and decide jurisdiction at the scene). “We actually supported the council in making the change so there wouldn’t be that disparity. We — all of law enforcement — have bigger issues to deal with, like meth and heroin.”
Lasnier said tribes that legalize marijuana can set the ground rules on how marijuana is processed and sold on their lands, heading off environmental problems associated with clandestine marijuana cultivation.
“Everyone who has wanted marijuana has had marijuana,” Lasnier told ICTMN. “It’s more accessible now, except the Mexican mafia is no longer making the money and there is no more horrific dumping of trash and pollution. I was ecstatic when [the ban] was removed, because now there’s one set of rules for everyone.”
This fiscal year, which began July 1, retail marijuana has generated an average total daily sales of $2.3 million in Washington state; those sales are generating tax revenues that can be used to bolster law enforcement and other public services. According to the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, the State of Washington charges an excise tax of 37 percent on all taxable sales of marijuana, marijuana concentrates, useable marijuana, and marijuana-infused products.
Time to reveal this year’s cannabis turkeys-the fattest, most frivolous, flapping, dumb-ass ideas in need of being stuffed, baked, and smoked once and for all.
Let’s start with a turkey large enough for the whole family, and by that I mean Gov. Chris Christie. He not only had the nerve to call cannabis a gateway drug, but said potheads lack restraint ( ahem ). “If I’m elected president I will go after marijuana smokers and the states that allow them to smoke,” he said. “I’ll shut them down big-time. I’m sick of these addicts, sick of these liberals with no self-control.” Governor GobbleGobble got in one more zinger on the campaign trail: “If you’re getting high in Colorado today, enjoy it,” Christie lectured a small crowd last month. “As of January 2017, I will enforce the federal laws.” Don’t hold your breath, Guv. Well, unless you inhaled, of course.
Last week the DEA chief, Chuck Rosenberg, called medical cannabis “a joke.” “What really bothers me is the notion that marijuana is also medicinal-because it’s not,” said pilgrim Rosenberg. “We can have an intellectually honest debate about whether we should legalize something that is bad and dangerous, but don’t call it medicine-that is a joke . . . If you talk about smoking the leaf of marijuana-which is what people are talking about when they talk about medicinal marijuana-it has never been shown to be safe or effective as a medicine.” Hilarious joke for those being aided by cannabis for everything from epileptic seizures to Parkinson’s, chronic pain, PTSD, and more. Rep. Earl Blumenauer ( D-OR ) slammed this diatribe from the House floor, calling Rosenberg “an inept, misinformed zealot who has mismanaged America’s failed policy of marijuana prohibition.” A change.org petition created for this turkey’s removal currently bears more than 100,000 signatures.
So far, the Liquor and Cannabis Board has handed out 142 medical endorsements, while roughly 1,100 dispensaries have also applied for new state rec licenses, according to the Olympian.
Late last night, Greenfield Company, a business that was shut down in previous months for not obtaining a business license to sell recreational marijuana, announced that their doors will now be open.
Late last night, Greenfield Company, a business that was shut down in previous months for not obtaining a City of Clarkston business license to sell recreational marijuana, announced that their doors will now be open.
Greenfield Company posted this to their facebook page:
“As you might have heard, Greenfield Company was spared by the Div III appeals court today. The city’s injunction was lifted, and our doors opened for a short period last night. We will continue to operate from 10am to 7pm daily starting this morning. The lifting of the injunction is temporary until the court of appeals is able to decide this matter. Yesterday evening the Clarkston City Council voted to spend more of the city’s tax dollars on a motion for reconsideration. The motion will be filed by an attorney from Yakima because Clarkston’s two attorneys are incapable. City attorney Jim Grow equated the process to performing brain surgery.”
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
nothing’s going to get better. It’s not.”
–Dr. Seuss, The Lorax
Interview: SHILO MORGAN – On Family, Community, and Cannabis in the Tri-Cities.
The court system has ground Lucky Leaf’s business operations to a standstill, meanwhile inventory sits on the shelf while the case winds its way to appeals court. All of the revenue that came in during the 19 days of business has gone to excise taxes, sales taxes, and legal fees. With two kids age 9 and 12, Shilo Morgan has her family to think about. A ruling was made in Clarkston lifting the injunction against the two licensed retail facilities, which sets legal precedent that might apply to the City of Pasco’s injunction against Lucky Leaf.
There are four objectives to this story.
- Learn who Shilo and David are and what they stand for
- Understand the current situation
- Understand who is affected by cannabis bans.
- Learn what you can do to help.
Objective 1: Meet Shilo & David Morgan
If you don’t mind, I’d like to re-introduce Shilo and David Morgan. I want you to know what I know about Shilo and David as humans, parents, and caring members of your community. Discouraged by what seems like discrimination, David is nearly ready to give up on his hometown, Pasco, and move away or relocate their store. But for Shilo, this is also about the message she’s sending her kids.
“We have a family here. We have a 12 year old and a 9 year old. This is where they grew up, this is where they go to school. What would giving up prove to our kids, or to our customers, or to our supporters? It’s not just about us or Lucky Leaf at this point, it’s about everybody.”
Shilo and David Morgan with their children at a Seahawks game.
You might be surprised to learn that Shilo and David’s two children attend St. Patrick’s Catholic School where Shilo is an active volunteer, coordinating charity auctions and mentoring students in Junior Achievement. Outgoing and warmhearted, Shilo calls everyone “Love” and makes people feel like they matter. Decked out in Seahawks fan gear, hands full of stacks of legal documents, Shilo’s voice carries an uncharacteristic heaviness as she describes the effects of the proceedings on her family and employees who are now out of work.
“I’m working on my teaching degree to become a K-8 teacher. I took time off from my education to open this business.” Shilo says. “I have relatives who moved all the way across the state to help us open. And my employees… this has cost people their jobs.”
Shilo and Christy reviewing legal documents for Lucky Leaf’s case.
A family man, David Morgan one of the kindest humans I’ve met. He posts on Facebook about being proud of his kids and cheers them on at sporting events. In person, his demeanor is utterly gentle; but there is a massive amount of quiet strength and courage beneath. If I had to guess, I’d say there isn’t an unkind bone in his body. He and Shilo clearly have a strong bond to each other, their children, and their extended families. A graphic designer, David’s profile describes him as a family man:
When he’s not working on on something awesome like a logo or building a website David enjoys spending time with his family and friends, boating, BBQ’n and gaming with his son David Jr. on Xbox 360. David has always enjoyed arts and design and after graduating in 2009 from WSU Tri-Cities, he opened Versatile Design Studios.
“I feel very fortunate to be able to wake-up everyday and work doing something I enjoy.”
If you’ll allow me to interject with some overgeneralizations for just a moment, I’d like to share observations about three major types businesspeople I’ve encountered in the early I-502/recreational cannabis industry:
- In it for the money. I refer to these types “drug dealers” because these people care not about the quality of the product, only the potency and quantity since recreational cannabis products usually end up being priced according to $/mg THC. They manufacture what they think “the kids want these days” and almost never test their own products (a=sounds like a drug dealer, does it not?). Some of these are involved in the industry already, and many more are waiting in the wings. The point is, they don’t care about you except as you pertain to their bottom line, and are largely ignorant of therapeutic benefits of cannabis.
- Former black market people with skillz but little money or business sense. These types often care very much about the quality of their product, but can be scientifically questionable – forces exerted by prohibition led to some odd evolutions. Oftentimes they know that a process works, but not why it works, or whether it’s the best one. Many of them are nonchalant about safety, lacking basic laboratory safety training. In a risk-averse area, rumors about this type can certainly sound alarming. I don’t think these types are inherently untrustworthy, and believe they should be shepherded into the industry with an eye for safety and sound science. Prohibition is ending, and the artisans knowledge could be lost.
- The “good ones.” Well, this will probably get me into trouble, but I don’t know how else to describe it. These are the conscientious people with decent business sense and scruples, who “know they don’t know”, and seem to value continuous learning. They’re often just normal family types, the kinds you’d expect to see running a small local business. Of course they want to make money with their business because duh, that’s the point of a business, but they care about the wellbeing of their customers first and foremost. They’re often pot smokers and had an “upstanding citizen” past life before starting a cannabis business. David & Shilo, obviously, are in this category.
The problem right now is that the people that you really want leading the charge in cannabis legalization are not exactly flocking to the industry (yet – but it has begun). So in the meantime, it’s up to the drug dealers and former black market folks to battle it out. Unfortunately, the more unsavory businesspeople often come equipped with deeper pockets, and deep pockets are the only thing that can survive the steep overhead startup costs and legal roadblocks. 2012’s Initiative 502 was not exactly written to keep the smaller Mom & Pop shops in business (born broken, as I think of it). Yes, I know that is an understatement.
All of this is to say that the Morgans are very much the third category, exactly the kind of people that you’d WANT to be running legal cannabis access points. They are family-oriented people with a track record of integrity. They’re the epitome of a Tri-Citian and Washingtonian, complete with Seahawks pride. They’re actually responsible enough and good enough to be entrusted with the area’s only legal cannabis access point (the next closest legal store is 35 miles away).
And that makes their situation even more exasperating.
“We want to work with the City but the City will not work with us,” Shilo explains.
Speaking of, now that you know who Shilo and David are and what they’re about, let’s talk about their business situation.
Objective 2: Understanding the Current Situation
The Morgans have been working on opening a retail store since 2013.
They first received pre-approval with the WSLCB for a location in downtown Pasco near the Pasco Farmer’s Market that met all zoning requirements and spent about $4,000 securing it. It was near a small run-down park that they confirmed did not interfere with their zoning requirements under the I-502 law. Several weeks later, the WSLCB was notified that Peanuts Park would be renovated (for about two million dollars) which would then apply the 1000ft rule to Lucky Leaf. To give you perspective, this is the rough downtown area of Pasco where prostitution, crack, and meth use are known to occur. It is undeniably a seedy and probably dangerous area of the Tri-Cities. And just months after the Morgans forfeited their original location, a head shop selling pipes and paraphernalia was opened across the street. Who knows.
“It was probably for the best,” Shilo says, “It wasn’t a very safe spot.”
I agree with Shilo; their new location is much better and safer. After an extensive review and some discussions with the mayor and county commissioner, Shilo and David went to the boonies and settled on a location near the King City Truck Stop. There is quite literally nothing out there besides the truck stop, an adult store, a Burger King, some industrial buildings, and a bunch of fields. No houses, schools, or civilization to speak of. Half a mile down the road, BUDS Pasco, an LCB-licensed Tier II producer, had been operating since 2013. BUDS closed its doors last week, but for unrelated reasons.
By this time, summer 2015, Morgans had been licensed by the LCB but still could not obtain a business license from the City of Pasco; in fact, the city refused to process their application. THREE TIMES.
“David has gone down to the City three different times to apply for a business license and no one in the office would even take the paperwork out of his hands. The least they could do is take our $75 and deny us our application. The city’s Community & Economic Development director looked David in the eye and said ‘nope,’ refusing to take the business license application out of his hands.”
“They knew that if they were to deny our license, we could appeal it.” Shilo said.
So having been thrice denied the opportunity to even apply for a business license by the City of Pasco, and because another legal cannabis business was allowed to operate nearby, Lucky Leaf opened without a city license on July 25.
That’s precisely what the City of Pasco was waiting for. A temporary restraining order was filed on August 19th against Lucky Leaf for operating without a business license. Judge Ekstrom granted an injunction on August 24th to keep Lucky Leaf closed pending further court reviews.
And remember the finger-jabbing city attorney? Shilo says that appearances aren’t everything. At that injunction hearing I wrote about in August, it seems that City of Pasco Attorney Kerr was just putting on a show, ostensibly to demonstrate the City of Pasco’s views on things. When he’s not arguing for City of Pasco to keep legal cannabis banned, he is approving conditional use permits for a cannabis store in Walla Walla. Yes, that’s right. Same attorney helping other cities open stores.
I know this doesn’t add up, but I’m not omniscient, and don’t pretend to understand the motivations of key players in this case, so moving right along.
Despite everything, it seems that Kerr was impressed with how the Lucky Leaf supporters behaved in the courtroom.
“Lee Kerr says the nicest things about us and our supporters,” Shilo said, after having run into him at a Seahawks game and having a pleasant exchange.
“Kerr complimented the Lucky Leaf supporters at the injunction. Our supporters zipped it, kept things quiet and respectful, and the court was impressed by their good behavior.” She explained Kerr’s positive attitude toward herself and David.
Now, the Morgans are awaiting their next court hearing in Spokane, but because they were denied a re-hearing, they are still forced to keep their doors closed and are losing an estimated $8k-10k a day in revenue, not to mention the inventory left to stale on their shelves.
Going back to the conditional use permits approved in Walla Walla.
The Morgans’ team carefully reviewed the Walla Walla resolution and wrote a settlement proposal to the City of Pasco using similar wording to that Walla Walla resolution (which was written by Kerr) allowing conditional use permits for a limited number of retail stores. The Morgans’ legal team submitted their proposal to the City on August 28. Not surprisingly, city attorney Kerr liked it. Kerr seems to realize that legalization is inevitable, and is actively helping other cities open stores. And he apparently likes the Morgans well enough. He liked their proposed resolution with the City of Pasco. So, we deduce that City of Pasco’s attorney, then, is willing to work with the Morgans to settle and allow their store to open in a controlled fashion.
Then Rick White, Community & Economic Development Director, saw the settlement proposal and said “Absolutely not.” And that’s where it died.
Hold the phone… if the city attorney is willing to work with the Morgans, as well as two members of the Pasco City Council, and the Mayor, then who exactly is opposing legal cannabis access?
Shilo deduces that the only opponents appear to be Rick White and four city council members. That’s it. It makes you wonder, where do Mr. White and the opposing city council members get their information? Are they qualified to make this decision for you? Take this as a lesson to pay closer attention to what’s happening in local elections. I certainly have.
“It’s not just about us or Lucky Leaf at this point, it’s bigger than that.” – Shilo.
Objective 3: Who is affected?
“I go to check the store’s voicemail and there are so many messages going ‘Well FUCK!’ ‘Goddamn city of Pasco’ ‘Well shit, what am I going to do now?’” – Shilo
I ask Shilo if she saves the voicemails ; she says she wants to, but the voicemail fills up so quickly that she has to delete them.
“I feel so bad for our customers,” says Shilo. “We’ve kept quiet because our attorneys told us to keep quiet until our rehearing. When we got the news that our rehearing was denied, I have decided I am not keeping quiet anymore because it’s not getting anywhere.”
Shilo and David reviewed the birth dates of their customers and found that the majority of their customers are 41-65 years old.
This is also true of most other retail stores. Customers like to talk about the “glory days” of smoking pot in the 60’s and come in because they have money, don’t have black market hookups or don’t want to buy black market, and are looking for some therapeutic help. They want to feel young again. They’re looking for pain relief. Anxiety relief. Depression relief. Restful sleep. Couples looking to reconnect with each other. The primary recreational customers are not young troublemakers but middle aged and elderly people just wanting to feel better.
Remember the medical system is being rolled into the recreational (the two will be fully merged in 2016), so without access to recreational stores, there IS no access.
In Clarkston, WA a case very similar to Lucky Leaf’s has been unfolding. On 9/18, Greenfield Company and Canna4Life both reopened after an injunction was halted and criminal charges dropped against the owners.
Shilo and David’s case is very similar to the Clarkston case, except that Shilo and David haven’t been charged with any criminal activity like the stores in Clarkston. My sources tell me that there are consequences; most of the Clarkston City Council is on their way out the door because of this whole debacle.
The stores are currently allowed to operate per court ruling despite the city’s objections. Had this case been decided before Lucky Leaf’s injunction hearing, the outcome might have been different. However the re-hearing has already been denied.
Objective 4. Call To Action!
If you read all the way to the end, then it is precisely YOU who Shilo and I are writing to, and it is you who can make a difference! Let’s tell the city what’s up, but let’s do it together with kindness. [If you must rant, I understand; email it to me and I’ll translate it and send it on. ;)] The only way we are going to make a dent in the stigma is to MODEL the change we want to see in the world. We have to remember that people still live in fear of this plant. That fear is very real and we have to treat it with respect and love.
There is freedom waiting for you
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask, “What if I fall?”
Oh, but my darling, what if you FLY?
– Erin Hanson
So here are some suggestions to choose from:
- Pasco city council is creating a public survey and one of the questions that might be on the survey is whether or not people think the ban is good for our city. Write to the Pasco City Council here and let them know that you’d like the cannabis ban question on the survey. Keep in mind that anything you send to the city becomes public record.
- Write to the Pasco City Council directly and let them know whether or not you support Ordinance 4166 banning cannabis. Here are the key players to copy on your letter and keep in mind this may be public record. Depends on how much time you have, but it’s not a crazy idea to copy your response to all of them.
- Attend City Council Meetings. Here are links to the local cities.
- Richland, First and third Tuesdays of each month at 7:30pm
- Kennewick, Every other Tuesday at 6:30pm
- Pasco. Mondays at 7:00pm
- West Richland, First and third Tuesday of every month at 7:00
- Benton City – The City Council meets every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month at 7:00 p.m., in the City Hall Council Chambers.
- Sign Change.Org petition to lift Pasco’s Cannabis Ban, Ordinance 4166.
- Tell your story! One of the most powerful things you can do is to speak your deepest truth. Do you have a story? I want to help you tell it. Submit yours to firstname.lastname@example.org or to discuss an interview. Be sure to include how you’d like to be signed. I won’t ask you to show our face or use your real name. [At least not this time.]
Pasco’s only marijuana retailer, shut down less than a week ago by city officials, will remain closed for the time being after a Franklin Superior Court judge ruled the city has the right to prohibit such businesses while the case winds through the courts.
About 20 people supporting David and Shilo Morgan, owners of Lucky Leaf, filled the courtroom during a preliminary hearing, many wearing green clothing or green-beaded necklaces.
The Morgans’ attorneys agreed that the couple operated the store without a business license from the city, but the city wouldn’t allow them to file for one, limiting their options, and they had otherwise followed all the protocols required to run a licensed marijuana retail store.
While the city has banned all marijuana businesses, the state’s marijuana law, recently revised by Legislature, no longer provides cities the same authority to ban marijuana retailers, they said.
“If (the revised law) hadn’t come into place, we wouldn’t be standing here,” said attorney Nicolas Vieth.
City attorney Leland Kerr said it’s the obligation of everyone to follow the law and the Morgans were frequently warned of the consequences if they opened their shop.
“Mr. Morgan ignored all of that and instead forged ahead,” Kerr said.
Judge Alex Ekstrom noted that a full decision would come in a future hearing and that it isn’t his job to make a policy decision.
However, language in the law indicates that cities still have the authority to prohibit marijuana businesses, he said, and extended the temporary restraining order to keep the shop from serving customers.
“The jurisdiction retains its police power even after the state provides a license,” Ekstrom said.
Lucky Leaf, located in the King City neighborhood in northeast Pasco, opened its doors on July 25. The store received its state license July 9 from what’s now the state Liquor and Cannabis Board after trying two other locations in Pasco.
The Morgans considered other locations, but settled on outlying King City to be far away from exclusion zones identified by the city. City officials forced the store to close on Aug. 19.
Along with arguing that revised state law no longer permits cities to ban marijuana retailers, Pasco officials also failed to show how the business would damage the city and ignored other remedies, such as fining the business if it remained open, the Morgans’ attorneys said.
“If the city wants to fine them $250 a day, go ahead,” said attorney John Ziobro.
State law is clear that cities have the right to ban all types of marijuana businesses, Kerr said, adding that language that would have prevented that was struck from the amended law before it was changed by the Legislature.
The city sees the matter as a health and safety risk, Kerr said, noting that marijuana contributes significantly to the occurrence of crime and violence, and that allowing Lucky Leaf to continue operating threatens to upset law and order.
“If you open this door for a period of time, the city is helpless to stop others from doing the same,” Kerr said.
The section of the revised state law describing how tax revenues would be distributed to cities and counties, except to those that ban marijuana growers, processors and retailers within their borders, indicates the state never intended the law to stop cities from banning retail businesses, Ekstrom said.
The Morgans and their attorneys declined comment following the hearing. They and the city are due back in court next week.