State plans for pot-shop license lotteries

State plans for pot-shop license lotteries
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Washington state will hold lotteries this month for its coveted legal marijuana retail licenses.

The state Liquor Control Board on Wednesday adopted a plan for the lotteries, which will be held for any cities or counties where there are more pot-shop applicants than licenses allotted.

The board says the lotteries, to be held April 21-25, will be double-blind to ensure security, and the board itself will play no role in picking winners. Instead, the board will supply a list of prescreened applicants to Kraght-Snell, a Seattle firm that serves as the accountant for the Washington Lottery.

That firm will randomly assign numbers to each applicant, and send those numbers, without any identifying information, to Washington State University's Social and Economic Sciences Research Center.

The center will randomly order the numbers provided by the firm, then send those rankings back to Kraght-Snell, which will decode them.

The state treasurer's office will witness the lotteries, said Liquor Control Board spokesman Brian Smith.

A favorable rank in the lottery won't guarantee a license. Applicants will still have to pass a background check, financial investigation and other requirements before any licenses are actually issued. The first retail sales are expected to begin in July.

More than 2,000 people initially applied for the 334 retail marijuana licenses the state planned to issue under the recreational pot law adopted by voters in 2012. The board began prescreening the applicants in February and found that about 25 percent failed to respond by sending in proof of age, residency, that their business was formed in Washington, or a disclosure of their criminal history.

Of those who did respond, somewhere between 20 percent and 50 percent failed to turn in a complete application. They're ineligible for any lottery too, Smith said.

It isn't yet clear how many jurisdictions might be subject to lotteries, because the board is still reviewing prescreening materials provided by applicants.