Wednesday, December 6, 2023
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My Dealer Is the City Council

VANCOUVER, Wash. (CN) - Two years after Washington state legalized marijuana, the small town of North Bonneville has opened the country's first government-run pot shop.

Washington voters made marijuana legal in the state in 2012, and the first legal pot shops began opening last year.

The stores are regulated by the state's Liquor Control Board, and there is a stringent process involved in obtaining licensing. Taxes from pot sales are partly used to fund substance abuse prevention programs and law enforcement.

When the state began accepting applications for pot stores, more than 1,000 applicants sought licenses for 334 stores, requiring a lottery system for the process.

The small town of North Bonneville is near the Columbia River in Skamania County, about 40 miles Northeast of Portland. The town has fewer than 1,000 residents, and is near the Bonneville Dam.

The North Bonneville City Council established a Public Development Authority (PDA) to operate a marijuana store in the town, after months of discussion at council meetings.

Such government bodies are allowed by state law. A similar PDA runs Seattle's famous Pike Place Market.

The council in November approved the creation of the PDA, and the five board members sought a license from the Liquor Control Board.

The board initially denied the application for the PDA to open a pot store called The Cannabis Corner because it was close to a park.

State law prohibits pot stores from operating within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, and other places where minors congregate.

But the liquor board changed its decision after the park was found to be an RV park.

The Cannabis Corner, in a renovated pole barn, opened this month. It is Skamania County's only recreational pot store, and the first in the country to be government-owned.

The store sells packages of marijuana strains with names like Cheese Quake, Girl Scout Cookies, and Alaskan Thunderfuck, as well as pot-infused baked goods and smoking devices. Most of the pot costs $15 to $20 per gram, or $426 to $568 per ounce.

North Bonneville used a loan from tourism funds for the PDA, and the board will not pay federal taxes on the marijuana sales.

The PDA board hopes the area will benefit from tourism. The Columbia Gorge is located is popular for camping, hiking, and windsurfing on the Columbia River.

The store also provides payroll services to North Bonneville, according to the Cannabis Corner website.

"It may not sound like a lot, but this effort greatly assists our township's small staff," the site states, noting that the profits for the store will be used to aid the community.

The mayor of North Bonneville, Don Stevens, has been an advocate for legalization of marijuana since the 1970s, when he joined the group NORML as a teenager.

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