Washington's recreational marijuana law took awhile to fully implement (7 months longer than Colorado), but sales have been occurring since July of 2014. At first there were only a handful of stores open, but as time went by more and more opened their doors for business. That has resulted in a steady increase of total recreational marijuana sales in Washington. That number is likely going to climb as more and more stores open in Washington. The number of recreational marijuana stores in Washington is expected to double. Per KUOW:
Liquor and Cannabis Board spokesman Brian Smith said the number of new licenses his agency can grant is open-ended.
"We want to take those people now that are operating in the gray market, so to speak, and be able to move into the fully regulated state system," Smith said.
He said legislators estimate that 800 dispensary owners may seek the new licenses, and perhaps 400 will be eligible to receive them. So far, the Liquor and Cannabis Board has issued 196 retail licenses since pot became legal.
Geographic quotas and lotteries made retail licenses scarce and valuable when I-502 was implemented. For these new applicants, the approach will be different. They will likely get a license if they meet certain criteria: That they opened before the passage of I-502, paid their taxes and obtained local business licenses.
So technically, it's not that these establishments are going to come out of thin air - they will be medical marijuana dispensaries that will be converted to medical/recreational marijuana dispensaries/stores. Washington is pushing hard to blend the two marijuana sectors together. That approach has rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, and for good reason. Prices at medical marijuana dispensaries that are forced to turn into medical/recreational hybrid stores will be forced to sell products for far more than they have been due to licensing requirements and taxes. I have to assume that a lot of patients are either going to have to pay much more than they are used to, or for the ones that can't afford it, they will be forced to go without. I'm sure many of them will drive to Oregon to get much cheaper products once recreational sales start down here, but that is far from a good scenario for patients.