BG marijuana retail store opens its doors

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Battle Ground’s first retail recreational marijuana shop – just the third in Clark County – is now open.

Cannabis Country Store began sales on Mon., Nov. 3, in the space formerly occupied by Main Street Pet Supply at 1901 W. Main St. In addition to selling marijuana buds, the store offers an array of glass pipes and owner Loren Carlson hopes to begin selling edible marijuana items before long.

“It’s a whole new world and it’s exciting to be part of it,” he said.

Carlson and store manager Dale Rennaker have been planning the shop for the past year, and Carlson brings business knowledge he has acquired during 25 years in retail sales.

The men also visited marijuana businesses in Seattle, Tacoma, Raymond, Bremerton and Colorado to get tips from others in the industry. Carlson said he was impressed with the people he met in Colorado’s marijuana businesses.

“They know how to treat people,” he said. “They’re genuine, nice people.”

Cannabis Country Store will purchase its marijuana from various sources, but will rely most heavily on products from Agrijuana, a growing and processing facility in Battle Ground.

“Our whole idea is to promote the local economy,” said Carlson, whose store will employ seven people to begin. “We want to offer as many local jobs as we can.”

He said he wants to add staff as the business matures. Store hours are from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Carlson is partnering with Mary Jane’s House of Glass in Vancouver for its supply of pipes. The new business owner said Mary Jane’s has recently expanded into a 7,500-square-foot facility at the Port of Camas-Washougal that will have 54 production spaces.

Carlson, Rennaker and other employees were bustling around the shop Friday afternoon to get ready for opening day. They filled display cases with brightly colored pipes, some of which stood more than a foot tall. No marijuana was put out as of Friday.

Outside, a simple wood sign above the doors announces the company. Inside, wood cabinets add to the country feel that Carlson wanted for his shop. The Battle Ground store is one of 73 licensed by the state of Washington, with about two-thirds of those reporting monthly income, according to Brian Smith of the Washington State Liquor Control Board.

Washington and Colorado, the only two states where recreational marijuana is legal, have vastly different tax structures for pot.

Colorado collects revenue from marijuana sales through a 15 percent excise tax, a 10 percent state tax on retail marijuana sales, a state sales tax of 2.98 percent, varied local sales taxes, and local marijuana taxes such as 3.5 percent in Denver.

In Washington, Initiative 502 that voters passed in 2012 to make recreational marijuana legal calls for a state tax of 25 percent on sales from producers to processors, 25 percent on sales from processors to retail store owners, and 25 percent on retail sales to customers. In addition, Battle Ground’s 8.4 percent sales tax is tacked on.

The combined taxes have driven the price of legal marijuana well above the black market price. It’s a situation that industry representatives are concerned about.

“We have price issues we’re going to have to deal with,” Carlson said. “There’s lots of work to be done.”

He believes the state Legislature must pass regulations on medical marijuana as well as legislation that would give some of the tax money to cities where marijuana businesses operate. Currently, cities are cut out of the financial pie altogether.

Carlson also notes that Washington’s marijuana laws don’t allow business owners to deduct building rent, utilities or employee salaries on their income tax.

Still, he’s glad to be in the business. People who purchase legal marijuana from a state-approved store will get a product that is more pure than that on the black market, Carlson said.

“With Agrijuana, we know it’s all organic,” he said. “There are no pesticides.”

Carlson said his goal is to run a legitimate retail business like any other business in town.  Rennaker agreed, saying, “We want to be reputable.”

That means putting a high wall between their products and people under the age of 21, the men emphasized.

“We take it very seriously, keeping it out of the hands of children,” Carlson said.

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