Scott Sotebeer wants to bring legitimacy to the marijuana business. By doing something the state and the public approve of, he hopes Washington state can set an example for other states and countries.
"It’s obviously a very, very different environment and uncharted territory for everyone," he said.
Sotebeer’s company, Hempzen Enterprises, is one of 15 companies that applied for marijuana business licenses with Woodinville addresses, including locations within Woodinville’s city limits and in unincorporated King and Snohomish counties. The application period lasted from Nov. 18 to Dec. 18, and no other application periods are planned. Licenses will be issued in February.
The Woodinville Weekly attempted to contact all applicants with Woodinville addresses, but no others who responded were willing to be identified.
Washington voters legalized recreational marijuana with Initiative 502 in 2012, but cities, counties and prospective business owners are still figuring out how to navigate the state’s rules for marijuana businesses.
The Washington State Liquor Control Board will issue three types of business licenses — for producers, processors and retailers. Applicants must complete a criminal background check and won’t be able to obtain a license if they’ve been convicted of a felony within the past 10 years.
Producer and processor licenses will be issued to all qualified applicants. A lottery in early 2014 will select 334 applicants, distributed throughout the state based on population, to receive licenses for retail stores, according to Brian Smith, communications director for the LCB. Retail stores cannot be located within 1,000 feet of schools, playgrounds, recreation centers, child care centers, public parks, public transit centers, libraries or game arcades that allow minors to enter.
In November, the Woodinville City Council enacted a moratorium prohibiting any marijuana-related land uses for six months, giving the council and the planning commission more time to study the issue and decide whether to ban or allow marijuana businesses permanently.
King County and Snohomish County both adopted zoning regulations, but didn’t ban marijuana businesses outright. In King County, outdoor growing and limited processing are allowed in agricultural and rural areas; indoor growing, processing and retail are allowed in community business and regional business zones; and indoor growing and processing are allowed in the industrial zones.
Snohomish County has similar zoning regulations.
"By and large, those regulations permit the growing and processing of marijuana in our agricultural zones and in industrial zones and in some rural zones," Will Hall, a Snohomish County Council staff member, explained. "They allow the retail sales of marijuana in zones where retail would typically be allowed. So those are commercial zones, places where liquor stores would be allowed."
Cities and counties are allowed to create zoning regulations for marijuana businesses, but "there’s nothing in I-502 that allows communities to opt out of marijuana licenses," Mikhail Carpenter, a representative for the LCB, said. The LCB intends to issue licenses to qualified applicants regardless of moratoria such as Woodinville’s. However, the applicant then has to get approval from the local authority, so "it’s pretty likely that the licensee will then sue that city and it will end up in court," Carpenter said.
Sotebeer, the owner of Hempzen Enterprises, worked with a realtor to find a location that would comply with regulations for producing and processing marijuana. He applied for producer and processor licenses in King County outside Woodinville’s city limits (as well as licenses in Tukwila and in Okanogan County) because of the area’s access to highways and good transportation. Woodinville also has experience dealing with "these types of products," he said, noting the city has allowed wineries to grow in a responsible way.
Sotebeer — who has an MBA and a PhD in management, has experience in management and consulting and has worked in the King County Sheriff’s Office — is excited by being one of the first in a new industry. He plans to sell marijuana wholesale to retail stores statewide and to other processors making infused products.
"It’s a whole new world of business, and that’s the entrepreneurial side," he said. "It’s only going to succeed if really responsible people are doing business."
Applicants for Marijuana Business Licenses:
Producer: Blue Indicators
• Mink Farm Organics
19937 NE 154th Street, Woodinville
• Woodinview Hemp Farm
18717 156th Avenue NE, Woodinville
Producer and processor: Yellow Indicators
• Auricag Incorporated
7533 W. Bostian Road, Woodinville
• Bakkhos Holding, LLC
7532 W. Bostian Road Lot 1 and Lot 2, Woodinville
• D&K Cannabis
15420 164th Avenue NE, Woodinville
• Fales Growers LLC
8329 219th Street SE, Woodinville
• G&S Greenery
8610 219th Street SE, Woodinville
17307 NE Woodinville Duvall Road, Woodinville
• Imwalle Farms Premium Cannabis Cultivators
17903 176th Avenue NE, Woodinville
7533 W Bostian Road, Woodinville
7907 224th Street SE Suite A, Woodinville
Retailer: Pink Indicators
20150 144th Avenue NE, Ste. B, Woodinville
• Good News Everyone
17317 140th Avenue NE, Woodinville
17115 163rd Avenue NE, Woodinville
• Seattle Tribe Partners
21323 NE 156th Street, Woodinville