Pot shop owners blame Washington bureaucracy for shortage

VANCOUVER, Wash. - Business is booming for recreational pot shops in Washington. But, as the first weekend of legal sales approaches, many stores are sold out of bud. It could be days before they get more, leaving some customers out of luck. Some owners blame the state for the pot shortage.

It's an old lesson in supply and demand. In this case, the marijuana supply is low and demand is high. It's a scenario owners and managers of retail marijuana shops across Washington knew was a reality before they opened their doors for the first time this week.

"We're trying to explain to people the situation and explain that more product is quickly, quickly arriving," said Ramsey Hamide, General Manager of Main Street Marijuana in Vancouver.

Hamide's store opened on Wednesday. It had product to sell on both Thursday and Friday, but sold out both days before the store closed.

"At 11 o'clock we've had large lines and it's actually caught up a little bit off guard," explained Hamide.

Even with empty display cases, Hamide kept Main Street Marijuana open to sell glass, answer questions, and work to line up more suppliers for next week.

"We're having to do public information requests through the WA state liquor control board for access to the growers' contact information," said Hamide.

Kathleen Nelson, who owns The Freedom Market in Kelso, told KATU News late Friday afternoon, her shop is closed until Tuesday, when her next shipment of marijuana gets delivered.

A third store opened in Southwest Washington on Friday. New Vansterdam reaped the benefits of its competitor being sold out of weed. Customers were lined up outside the store into the night.

Managing Partner Don Joling said he made contact with enough growers outside of Southwest Washington to keep a steady supply coming in.

"I've been so busy just restocking the shelves, I have no idea how much I've sold," Joling said.

But, Joling also knows, right now, he's not able to buy the quantities of marijuana he wants to buy, and will buy in the future.

"There's such a back-log of applications for growers and processors in the State of Washington," Joling said.

Joling is correct. More than 2,600 people applied for marijuana production licenses in Washington, yet there are less than 100 licensed growers currently operating across the state.

Joling said there's only one in business in Southwest Washington, which is why he's working with growers hours away. Hamide & Nelson are is working with a grower in Spokane.

On top of the lack of licensed growers, only a fraction of the marijuana that has been grown at those facilities has passed lab testing required before it can be sold wholesale.

But, if you ask Hamide or Joling, they'll tell you they believe the market will eventually stabilize.

"I kind of liken it to a snowball. We push the snowball down the hill, and by the beginning of August, we'll be flush," Joling said.

For customers, that means prices could drop, and stores will start staying open on a regular schedule.

New Vansterdam will be open on Saturday morning at 11.