SEATTLE – Randy Oliver has a pressing question as legal marijuana sales are about to begin in Washington state: Where’s all the weed?
Oliver is the chief scientist at Analytical 360 in Yakima, the only lab that has been certified to test the heavily taxed marijuana that will wind up on store shelves next month. So far, just two licensed growers have turned in samples for testing, with another due to turn in a small batch next week, he told The Associated Press on Saturday.
There’s such a small stream of samples coming through, he said. There’s going to be some long lines and some high prices.
The state’s Liquor Control Board has been warning of shortages when the first stores open. The board plans to issue the first 15 to 20 retail licenses July 7, with shops allowed to open the next day if they’re ready.
It’s not clear how many that will be, but board staffers said at a meeting last week that only one store in Seattle is ready for its final inspection.
Only 79 of the more than 2,600 people who applied for marijuana growing licenses last fall have been approved, and many of them aren’t ready to harvest.
Will there be shortages? Randy Simmons, the board’s legal-pot project manager, said in a recent AP interview. The answer to that is yes.
Growers have to provide samples for every strain of cannabis they grow and for every 5 pounds of flowers they harvest.
Oliver also said glitches with the software the state is using to track the bar-coded marijuana from clone to sale could compound the issue.
It isn’t clear how soon other labs might be certified or be ready to handle samples.
When people start calling, we have to tell them we’re not going to have anything for them until August, said Bob Leeds, a partner with Seattle’s Sea of Green Farms, one of the two growers who have had their pot tested. That’s a long way off when you’re trying to open a business.
The Sea of Green team was spending the weekend packaging the approximately 40 pounds of marijuana it harvested recently, Leeds said.
It has contracts with four shops to sell most of it already – for an exorbitant $4,000 a pound. That’s nearly $9 per gram before the retailer’s mark-up, 25 percent retail excise tax, and state and local sales taxes. At the state’s unlicensed medical dispensaries, cannabis often sells for $8 to $12 per gram.