In truly historic fashion the first government owned marijuana dispensary will open it’s doors today in Washington state.
All profits from the store will go to North Bonnevile, a small town in the Columbia River Gorge. Bonneville has gone through a devastating economic slump since the timber industry shut down over twenty years ago.
“There is one gas station. There is one restaurant. There is a golf course. And there is the Bonneville Hot Springs Hotel,” said John Spencer, the former city administrator turned consultant.
With a couple of other exceptions, Spencer is describing Bonneville’s economy. In recent months the town has forgone some public parks maintenance and is turning off streetlights to reduce the electricity bill.
“The city is on its knees financially,” Spencer said.
“They have run negative numbers in the general fund multiple months in a row because they have no retail sector here and in Washington State you’re dependent on a retail sector because of the sales tax. And this store could very well make a town that is otherwise going to fail.”
The store in question is called “The Cannabis Corner” and it is not actually ‘owned’ by the town.
“No absolutely not,” Spencer said. “This is a public development authority pot shop. A municipally-operated pot shop.”
He noted it is pretty common to create public development authorities when towns want to do something in the private sector. The most common occurrence being facilities like convention centers.
“In the headlines everybody wants to say it’s a city-owned pot shop, which I guess I leave that for the lawyers. I guess technically in some level it is,” said North Bonneville Mayor Don Stevens, who embraces the title of “The Marijuana Mayor,” right down to the personalized license plates that read “MJMAYOR” that he’s ordered for his car.
Under I-502, cities & towns in Washington do not receive any revenue from sales tax derived from legal cannabis sales, all monies go to the state. There have been several outspoken critics of this model saying it is slowing the industry’s growth and putting local municipalities at financial risk.
With that said, all of taxes from The Cannabis Corner will go to the state, but the store’s profits will go directly back into the local economy. The state expects to earn $225,000 in profits from it’s first year in operation.
“While it can’t just deposit its profit directly into our general fund, (it) can as a separate corporation, help us defray costs with law enforcement contracts, public health and safety programs, any number of things that will ultimately will have a positive effect on our bottom line,” Mayor Stevens said.
Photo Credit: OPB.org