Pot retailers scramble to open by Tuesday morning

Top Shelf Cannabis, one of two Bellingham marijuana retailers scheduled to open Tuesday, was buzzing with activity on Monday.

A contractor finished work on the bathroom he built over the previous four days. New employees learned the store’s inventory process and computer system. Future customers even came by to ask if they could camp outside the store.

Owner Tom Beckley fielded a deluge of phone calls.

“When you have to put High Times on hold to talk to the Wall Street Journal, it’s pretty crazy,” Beckley said.

Beckley expects 500 to 1,000 customers to come to his shop on Tuesday. But the shelves slated for Washington’s first crop of legal weed were still empty on Monday.

Several shipments of marijuana will begin arriving at 4 or 5 a.m. on Tuesday, Beckley said.

After being notified by the state that their licenses were approved at 2 a.m. on Monday, growers had to print shipping manifests for Tuesdays orders and put the packaged pot under a fixed-position video camera for 24 hours. This is part of the state’s rigorous inventory and tracking program for retail marijuana.

When the pot reaches Top Shelf Cannabis, the store must also inventory it using state-approved tracking software.

“We’ll be pushing 8 a.m. but we’re going to be doing everything we can to get open,” Beckley said.

Beckley expects to bring 20 pounds of pot into his store in the next few days, which he thinks is more than any other retailer in the state. Beckley’s first 50 customers can buy a gram of weed for $10, which is similar to street prices. After that he’ll begin charging more.

Retailers expect marijuana to be in short supply for at least a few weeks, until more growers receive permits. Because of the short supply, Top Shelf Cannabis and other growers will charge $15 to $20 or more for a gram until more growers get up and running.

John Evich, an investor at Top Shelf Cannabis, worked hard to develop relationships with growers, he said.

“With one of our main sources, the friendship started out with a cold call that lasted an hour and 45 minutes,” he said. “Everything started out with cold calls.”

Growers and retailers say personal relationships guide their decisions about which suppliers and stores to work with.

For retailers, a strong relationship with growers is essential to getting pot in stores, at least for now.

To customers, retailers are the faces of the growers products, said Collin Smith, operations manager at Blewett Pass Farms. He tries to find stores that will represent his marijuana well.

Blewett Pass Farms in Peshastin will be a main supplier to the only other pot shop to open on Tuesday in Bellingham – 2020 Solutions at 2018 Iron Street. For the first week, Smith will make deliveries every other day, if not every day, he said.

Even so, some retailers will run out of marijuana, Smith predicted.

“We have five people who want our product for every one we can supply,” he said. “Our phones are constantly hammered. There’s just no way we can meet the demand that’s out there.”

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