Within half an hour on one day near the end of July, I saw Herbal Nation get five phone calls from customers, asking if the store was open yet.
But Herbal Nation, the first recreational marijuana store that’s licensed to open in the Northshore area and the second in the Seattle area, told customers they’re opting not to open because the wholesale prices for legal weed are so high right now. Instead, Herbal Nation’s grand opening is planned for Aug. 18, the weekend after Hempfest.
“We’re opting not to open because they’re price gouging us. There’s a misconception that there’s a shortage of marijuana,” said Lauren Downes, a spokeswoman for Herbal Nation. “We’re trying to do right by the people,” she added.
She says there’s no shortage — the problem is that marijuana producers and processors can charge whatever they want for marijuana. Some wholesale producers are asking for $6,300 per pound, which means Herbal Nation would have to sell an eighth ounce of marijuana for $99, plus tax. Other wholesalers want half of the profits in order to supply any product.
“We need reliable sources with trustworthy processors who understand that this is not a one-night stand. It’s going to be a long-term relationship,” Downes said.
Herbal Nation doesn’t want to charge exorbitant prices that will discourage customers or sell marijuana at such low prices they’ll lose money. But Downes said some customers are willing to pay the high prices. The best solution, she said, would be for the state to regulate prices.
“We think the state doesn’t want it regulated, because they’re making double, triple the taxes,” Downes said. “They definitely need to do something about gouging.”
Price gouging (or, depending who you ask, a shortage of product) is one problem that has plagued Washington’s new marijuana industry. Herbal Nation hasn’t been affected by some of the other pitfalls, such as trouble finding a location to legally operate.
Herbal Nation is in unincorporated Snohomish County, just outside Bothell, so they didn’t have to deal with the bans or moratoriums on marijuana businesses imposed by many cities, such as Woodinville.
Besides the 40 to 50 calls per day from prospective customers, many of them tourists, Herbal Nation has received hundreds of job applications.
“There are so many people who want to break into this industry,” Downes said. “There is no business model like this, where you have not even opened your doors and you have customers who will recommend you” — which some callers have said they’ll do.
Herbal Nation’s opening day festivities will kick off at noon on Aug. 18. Downes said they anticipate 1,000 customers in the first day. It’s too early for them to estimate how much they’ll be charging for weed, since they’re still getting the product from producers.
“Unless we get more product, we will probably run out, just like Cannabis City,” the marijuana store in Seattle that was one of the first stores statewide to open, Downes said. “Even if we run out, we will remain open.”
Visit Herbal Nation online at www.herbalnationbothell.com.