The tiny town of North Bonneville, Washington is a ‘one horse town’ for all intents and purposes. The down is deep within the Columbia River Gorge, and there’s only one gas station and one hotel, but soon there will be the very first government owned and operated marijuana dispensary.
While city administrators are quick to point out that the new weed dispensary will be a “municipally-operated pot shop.”, and not a ‘city owned weed dispensary’…methinks they can use all the fancy language they want, but the reality of it is that the North Bonneville’s marijuana dispensary ‘The Cannabis Corner’ will be owned and operated by the local government, and the proceeds will go directly back into the local community.
I found myself wondering why it’s taken so long for this to happen as the taxation of legalized marijuana has been an ENORMOUS BOON for Colorado and other places where weed has been made legal. Well, the answer is: there’s no clear answer.
All the marijuana dispensaries in Colorado are privately owned presumably because they’re all out there to get rich or die trying. Washington has very different laws regarding the operating of marijuana dispensaries and in those laws the cities see no revenue from the taxation, it all goes back to the state. So in order to skirt around that and pump some money back into a local economy that has fallen on rough times North Bonneville is launching this government owned and operated weed shop.
“The city is on its knees financially,” Spencer said. “They have run negative numbers in the general fund multiple months in a row because they have no retail sector here and in Washington State you’re dependent on a retail sector because of the sales tax. And this store could very well make a town that is otherwise going to fail.”
The store Spencer is talking about is The Cannabis Corner — North Bonneville’s first retail marijuana store. And in fact it’s the first recreational pot shop in the country run by a government.
There are no other shops run by municipalities in Washington. And in Colorado – the only other state where a recreational pot market is up and running – all the retails stores are privately owned, according to the state’s Department of Revenue.
So is it a city-owned pot shop?
“No absolutely not,” Spencer said. “This is a public development authority pot shop. A municipally-operated pot shop.”
He said it’s common for cities to create public development authorities when they want to do something in the private sector, as sort of a municipal corporation. Convention centers are one common example.
“In the headlines everybody wants to say it’s a city-owned pot shop, which I guess I leave that for the lawyers. I guess technically in some level it is,” said North Bonneville Mayor Don Stevens, who embraces the title of “The Marijuana Mayor,” right down to the personalized license plates that read “MJMAYOR” that he’s ordered for his car.
He said the city pursued the idea of a marijuana store because it gives it more control over how it’s operated.
While North Bonneville’s new store will still pay taxes to the state, the pot shop’s profits will go back to into the community by partnering with the city on projects.
“While it can’t just deposit its profit directly into our general fund, (it) can as a separate corporation, help us defray costs with law enforcement contracts, public health and safety programs, any number of things that will ultimately will have a positive effect on our bottom line,” Mayor Stevens said.
Right now, the city runs on seven staffers and annual budget of $1.2 million.
Officials predict The Cannabis Corner will bring in $225,000 in profit this year. They’re hoping for up to half a million dollars next year.
This seems like an ingenious way to get the local economy back on track…but as I said in the headline it is one that would drive Ron Swanson crazy. Libertarians like Ron Swanson want to see as little government influence and regulation as possible when it comes to every day life, and for a state that’s still rolling out legalized marijuana this seems like a pretty big intrusion.
Will it be good for the local economy? Absolutely.
Will it potentially lead to a free market conflict when a local entrepreneur wants to open his or her own marijuana dispensary? Absolutely.
[‘First Government-Run Pot Shop To Open In Washington State‘ via OPB.org]