Reading the retail lottery landscape 1.0

by Dominic Corva, Executive Director

As producers and processors move slowly through the licensing process, we have at last another milestone in the development of Legal Cannabis Landscapes in Washington State. Thursday the WSLCB held its retail application lottery and released that information to the public — with the exception of Longview, where a lawsuit prevented the release of those results.

What do we know about the results?  Although news reports and maps are currently showing 254 lottery “winners” in 75 jurisdictions where applicants exceeded available retail spots, it’s very important to realize a few key things about what we don’t know.

1.  There were an additional 47 jurisdictions in which 80 retail slots were up for grabs.  That’s a huge chunk of the 122 jurisdictions and 334 total retail slots for which we have no information.

2.  Many businesses played the lottery game by submitting multiple applications.  Each application counted as a separate lottery entry.  Some businesses managed to snag more than one retail slot, although they cannot have more than one retail location.  So the first cut is the one where businesses with multiple winners decide which one they want to open, and the other locations are removed from the ranking list.  This has already happened in Federal Way, according to Federal Way applicant Stefani Quane.  Her ranking (she was at 6 and needed to get to three) moved up one because two of the top 3 in Federal Way were from the same business.  Undoubtedly, this is happening in other jurisdictions.

3.  The retail “winners” win only the right to have their applications reviewed further.  The WSLCB will be examining financial backgrounds, background checks, and other criteria.  If and when a “winner” is eliminated, the other applicants will move up in the rankings.

4.  There is clearly a clustering issue, with Ballard and Sodo hosting about half of the locations., This has significant policy implications for two reasons.  One, because the WSLCB has made certain claims around consumer access in support of arguments about the 502 system being capable of providing safe access in lieu of medical access points. The other is that access to legal cannabis should have a significant effect on consumer choices (medical or not) about whether to stick with their convenient — often delivered — black market access or see if the legal retail stores can meet their preferences.

5.  The flip side of the clustering issue is what parts of Seattle have no retail locations.  The University District, Capitol Hill, and South Seattle are all significant clusters of current cannabis consumption, and there are no retail stores in these areas.

6.  Lawsuits.  No way to tell how many or for what right now other than WSLCB filing errors or the perception thereof.

The Center is working on mapping the retail landscape throughout the state with a special focus on Seattle and King County.  Until then, this is the location of my favorite map so far which not only locates the “winners” but identifies their lottery ranking: