U.S. pot stores set to open on B.C.’s doorstep

Will weedy Washington drive B.C. Bud price down? (With interactive map)



Lower Mainland residents may not have to go far into the U.S. to partake of legal recreational marijuana that will be sold in retail stores in Washington State later this year.

No retail licenses have been issued yet, but there are three applicants in Blaine, one in Point Roberts and another further east of Sumas at Maple Falls on the Mount Baker Highway. (See interactive map above or here.)

They’re among 15 applicants vying for seven Whatcom County pot store licences expected to be determined in July, in addition to six other retail store licences reserved for Bellingham, which are being sought by 27 firms.

The state this month released results of lotteries it conducted to determine the order in which it will consider applications in each area.

Ranked first in the Whatcom lottery was the proposed Maple Falls outlet, dubbed Green Stop, on the way up to Mount Baker.

Only one Blaine proposal was ranked in the top seven – guaranteeing it will at least be considered – while two others in Blaine at Birch Bay and the Point Roberts application are ranked lower, meaning they’ll only have a shot if enough higher-ranked proposals are rejected.

They must pass multiple screening critieria and sites can’t be within 1,000 feet of schools or parks.

The proposed weed outlets in easy striking distance of the border have names like People of the Medicine, Cascade Herb Company and Green Smoke Shop.

“I expect there will be some tourism,” Abbotsford lawyer John Conroy said of Canadians heading south once the stores open.

Conroy is leading a legal challenge on behalf of medical marijuana users fighting Ottawa’s shift to a new model of industrial producers while outlawing licensed home-growing.

He predicts Washington’s move into legal sale of cannabis will help reduce drug-related crime in B.C.

Conroy believes the pending launch is already reducing demand in Washington for B.C. Bud even though legal pot isn’t yet for sale there.

“I’m told the market is collapsing,” Conroy said. “Illegal growers here are getting out of the business.”

He said that reflects a decline in pot prices that he’s been told have fallen from $1,500 to $2,000 per pound to as low as $900 a pound.

“The money isn’t there for them and therefore they close down,” Conroy said, predicting Washington’s policy change will eliminate more illegal grow ops in B.C. than police.

“It seems to me to be a very good thing,” he said. “It’s not costing us manpower, money on prosecution or going through the courts.”

Conroy also expects medical marijuana users will prevail in court against Health Canada – hundreds of additional challenges have been launched across the country – allowing them to continue to grow-their-own medicine and use it in whatever form they prefer, rather than be forced to buy just the dried leaves that new commercial producers will sell.

Marijuana reform advocate Dana Larsen agreed B.C. pot prices have fallen, although not as far as Conroy claims.

He said pot that used to go for $2,400 a pound is off at least 20 per cent to $1,800 to $2,000, but adds $900 would have to be “cheap outdoor stuff.”

“Prices are definitely going down and in the last 18 months they’ve been going down a lot,” he said. “The profit value per pound is much less for the same risk.”

The U.S. market is the main reason, Larsen said, noting that although stores aren’t yet open in Washington, they are in Colorado – which also legalized in a recent referendum – and there’s increasingly easy access to medical marijuana in many other states, including California.

“Americans just don’t want our pot so much,” Larsen said. “They’ve got a thriving legal domestic market.”

He said he’s not aware of illegal B.C. growers shutting down, but said it wouldn’t surprise him if that’s happening, or that they’re at least pursuing different markets in eastern Canada.

The price can only fall, Larsen figures, as cannabis access loosens in various jurisdictions, noting reformers are pursuing referenda in Alaska and other states.

“It’s going to spread and the more it spreads, the less interest there is in Canadian pot.”

How low could B.C. Bud go?

If marijuana was grown “as freely as tomatoes” with no prohibition, Larsen estimates it could be produced and sold for $1 a gram, even with 40 cents tax built in.

That would be big drop from the $4 to $8 per gram it now sells for in quasi-legal dispensaries like the one Larsen operates.

Washington’s pot stores aren’t expected to be bargain-priced.

The state expects they’ll charge an average of $12 per gram, plus a 25 per cent excise tax that goes to the state.

Illegal marijuana grow-ops like this one may be in decline if pot prices continue to fall, some observers say.  File

Border troubles await

While legal U.S. pot will be a draw for many British Columbians, lawyers like John Conroy expect a bumper crop of new clients who run into trouble at the border.

While possession by adults of up to an ounce of pot has been legalized by Washington State, it remains illegal under U.S. federal law.

“You have no right to take anything in and certainly no right to import it back into Canada,” Conroy said.

Blaine immigration lawyer Len Saunders said Canadians can be banned from the U.S. even if they merely admit to ever having smoked marijuana in their life.

That’s because the U.S. government deems pot use a “crime of moral turpitude” that’s cause for being permanently denied entry.

“Telling them at the border you’re going to be buying marijuana is not going to be very helpful,” Saunders said.

He expects many Canadians coming for Washington weed will answer border agents’ questions truthfully, lose access to the U.S. and then need to apply for a costly waiver to regain it.

“This is going to be a huge boom in business for U.S. attorneys,” he predicted.

Medical marijuana users who think they can safely declare past pot use and not be found inadmissable are wrong, Saunders added.

“You may be legally prescribed marijuana by a B.C. doctor and you may even have a card that says that, but that does not help you at all at the border.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey firefighters battle a house fire near the 70A Avenue and 126A Street intersection early Sunday morning. According to a witness, it appears that the occupants were able to get out without injury. (Shane MacKichan photos)
PHOTOS: Fire causes extensive damage to Surrey home

Occupants able to escape without injury: witness

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

BC Liberal Surrey South candidate Stephanie Cadieux and supporters rally in Grandview Corners in the lead-up to the election. (Contributed photo)
BC Liberal Stephanie Cadieux on track to reclaim Surrey South seat

Final results won’t be known until after mail-in ballots are tallied

Surrey-White Rock front-runner Trevor Halford, who is represented by the BC Liberal Party, watches the election results come in Saturday evening. According to The Canadian Press, Halford is expected to be the MLA for the riding. (Contributed photo)
BC Liberal Trevor Halford expected to take Surrey-White Rock seat

Halford says he’s ‘absolutely thrilled’ with preliminary results

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

(Image by Ulrike Leone from Pixabay)
QUIZ: A celebration of colour

Fall in British Columbia is a time to enjoy a spectrum of vivid colours

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

BC Hydro map showing where power has been knocked out is dotted with over a dozen outages. (BC Hydro map screenshot)
Thousands without power in Lower Mainland on election day

One outage in Langley and Surrey is affecting over 4,000 customers

file
One dead after fiery crash near Agassiz

Agassiz RCMP report a 56-year-old man died Friday night

The possibility of the Canadian Premier League expanding to the Fraser Valley has been floated online. (Facebook photo)
Canadian Premier League possibly eyeing Fraser Valley expansion

Soccer league looking to add ninth team to the mix, B.C. markets potentially rumoured

Most Read