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Gardiner man tops in Sequim’s pot lottery
David Halpern of Gardiner and his Emanon Systems, Inc. could be Sequim’s first retail marijuana seller.
The Washington State Liquor Control Board listed Halpern and its other top candidates on May 2 after a double-blind lottery the week before. Halpern sits as the only Sequim area applicant at 755 W. Washington St., Suite C.
The Hidden Bush, in Port Angeles; High Grade Organics in Forks; and Weed-R-US in Port Angeles are frontrunners for the three “at-large” Clallam County shops. Each lottery winner must undergo further background checks before receiving a state license by July 1.
If an applicant fails or withdraws, the next business in the lottery would be up for review.
Halpern, who looks to open his business in a space occupied by Edward Jones, already is running into roadblocks before opening. The biggest issue for him is the City of Sequim’s six-month moratorium on marijuana business activity.
Craig Ritchie, Sequim city attorney, said councilors can vote to rescind the moratorium at any time and it can be renewed once unless the same issues exist or new ones arise.
The biggest issue for the city, Ritchie said, is that the state hasn’t merged medical marijuana and recreational marijuana sales.
“What we don’t want is a bunch of medical marijuana locations and retail locations that all go broke because there’s not enough business,” Ritchie said.
A majority of Sequim city councilors indicated at their last meeting on April 28 and in previous meetings that they want to wait on the state Legislature’s decision on merging medical marijuana and/or to even distribution of taxes between state and cities to help offset law enforcement costs.
However, if city councilors did rescind the moratorium, Halpern’s space would be allowed since it’s at least 1,000 feet from designated areas like schools as specified in Initiative 502 and the city code.
Ritchie said when the moratorium expires in August, councilors will host another public hearing to either extend it, apply it only to medical marijuana or rescind it.
If Halpern can even get the space remains up in the air.
Halpern listed Suite C in the building, where Edward Jones resides, after he was told by the landlord it would be available by July 1. Local officials with Edward Jones would not comment and the company’s public relations department could not be reached.
If the building doesn’t become available, Halpern said he’d consider buying the building, which is for sale.
When looking for a business place, Halpern said his current spot and the former Napa Auto Parts building were his only options because no other landlords would rent to him.
From computers to marijuana
Halpern, a native Californian and former natural foods store owner and computer businessman, moved to Gardiner after selling his art gallery in New Mexico because of his love for Washington and the lack of rain.
Since selling his business, Halpern said he’s been looking for a viable business.
“I’m not a pot smoker,” he said. “It’s been 20 years since I smoked pot. I think people have a right to do what they want to do with their bodies. I don’t believe in the war on drugs or the DEA. Yes, there has to be some regulations but this is my own way of moving society forward.” Halpern has been speaking at city council meetings against the moratorium for months.
“I don’t think they’ll lift it unless someone brings legal pressure on them,” he said.
To gather support, Halpern is considering a petition for signatures to give to the city council.
“This was a vote the state wanted. The county and the city,” he said. “It feels like the city knows better.”
Halpern said if people want to buy marijuana they’ll go to Port Townsend or Port Angeles. “They’ll go do it anyways,” he said. “It’s Prohibition thinking.”
If he is able to open his business, Halpern said he hopes to partner with a local bank so that his accounts can have card machines to avoid using cash and make him and customers less of criminal threats.
He’s also been in touch with Sequim’s first recreational marijuana producer Tom Ash of Tropic Grow, LLC, about possibly partnering.
For more information about the lottery process, visit www.liq.wa.gov.