First pot producer licenses issued in Whatcom County

Six months after the Washington State Liquor Control Board opened a 30-day window to accept applications to legally grow, process and sell marijuana, Whatcom County’s first commercial pot producers have received licenses.

The liquor board issued producer licenses to two businesses in Whatcom County on May 13, including one located in Bellingham’s Sunnyland Neighborhood. More are sure to be issued in the weeks to come.

A company called Virtual Services, located at 2018 Iron St., Suite B, has been licensed as a “tier 1” producer, defined as one with less than 2,000 square feet of production space.

Deepwater Botanicals, located at 5373 Guide Meridian Road, Suite D3, received a license to operate as a “tier 2” producer, one with production space between 2,000 and 10,000 square feet.

Space limitations for producers will actually be more restrictive, at least initially, after the liquor board decided in February to cap producers’ capacity at 70 percent of the maximum allowed by their particular production tier.

Bob Lipke, owner of Virtual Services, said his company will be a one-man show, focused on high-quality,  “connoisseur” pot strains.

The 60-year-old retiree said he will market his product under the brand name Oasis Organics.

State law does not allow producers to sell directly to customers. They will sell only to licensed processors or retailers.

Retail licenses are expected to be issued no later than the first week of July, according to the liquor board.

Lipke said passing all of the license requirements set by the liquor board was a daunting process, but one he understood and appreciated.

“It was a very thorough process, and I’m glad that the state put in all the regulations to be successful,” he said.

He still must complete local permitting with the City of Bellingham. He expects that can be done within weeks.

Lipke said his business will require some capital improvements and expansions, and he’s currently looking for investors.

He said his total output will likely be driven by demand. He estimated he can probably produce 50-150 pounds of pot in a year.

His goal is to grow up to 40 different pot strains, including some “heirloom” varieties that gained popularity in the illicit market during the 1960s and 70s, prior to Washington state’s legalization of marijuana, he said.

He decided to enter the industry due to the demand he sees for the product and the opportunity for him to use his business to supplement his retirement fund, Lipke said. He also said he has prior experience with tropical-plant cultivation.

Describing himself as a “conservative, older man with an interest in horticulture,” Lipke said he probably doesn’t fit the stereotypical mold of someone involved in marijuana production. And although he plans to grow pot, he said he doesn’t actually use it.

“I don’t have long hair, and I’m not a hipster,” he said, in jest. “It’s just a great business opportunity.”

Evan Marczynski, associate editor of The Bellingham Business Journal, can be reached at 360-647-8805, Ext. 5052, or

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