Recreational marijuana in Washington: Shortages lead to erratic business hours at Vancouver pot shops

 Head Shops

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December 3, 2016
Denver, CO

A week into Washington's experiment with recreational marijuana, two Vancouver retailers say business has been so brisk that they've experienced intermittent closures.

Demand for recreational marijuana has far outpaced supply, said New Vansterdam owner Brian Budz, whose shop is closed until Friday. The business opened Friday and had enough inventory to get through the weekend, but closed Sunday with only a couple grams on the shelves.

"We anticipated being in good shape for seven to 10 days," he said." It didn't last us three days. It was unbelievable how many people came through our store Friday, Saturday and Sunday."

Main Street Marijuana, also in Vancouver, opened last Wednesday but ran out of marijuana by the end of business Friday. More pot arrived late Monday so the shop opened Tuesday, said Ramsey Hamide, a shop manager. The shop's prices, which last week shot up to $30 a gram, now range from $15 to $20 a gram.

"We had a line of 150 people plus," he said of Tuesday's opening. "When I left 15 minutes ago, there were at least 100 people still in line. The demand is huge."

Main Street Marijuana and New Vansterdam were the among the first batch of marijuana retailers licensed by the state last week. Anyone 21 and older may possess as much as an ounce of marijuana under a law approved by Washington voters in 2012. 

The launch of Washington’s recreational marijuana program has been dogged by low supply and high prices. Industry insiders think supply will improve as more licensed growers come on line. And, they say, more supply will lead to a drop in prices.  

Budz estimates that he opened with 15 to 20 pounds of marijuana. He capped customer purchases to two grams apiece.

Though he stocked his shelves with 14 strains, one of the most popular, Pineapple Kush, had relatively low THC. He chalked up the strain's popularity to the number of novice consumers who wanted to start with a milder form of the drug.

"It sold really fast due to its appeal to non-daily smokers," Budz said.

He figures the retail industry will continue to operate erratically until more marijuana growers ramp up production.

"Obviously as a retailer we want to take care of our customers, but it's a harsh reality of this business at this time unfortunately," he said.

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