Two business owners eye South Whidbey cannabis stores

A well-known Langley businesswoman may become the first person to open a retail marijuana store on the South End.

Maureen Cooke, owner of Mo’s Pub and Eatery, filed an application with the Washington State Liquor Control Board to open the Whidbey Island Cannabis Company at a location in Bayview. Cooke hasn’t gotten the final OK from state regulators yet, but said she is “99 percent” through the review and qualification process.

“It looks like I might be the very first licensee,” Cooke said.

“I’m very excited about it,” she added.

Unlike other communities where large numbers of applicants required lotteries to determine who would be considered, one wasn’t necessary on Whidbey Island. Island County has a quota of four retail pot shops — including one earmarked for Oak Harbor — and Cooke was one of four applicants who have made it through the criminal background checks, financial inspection and other aspects of the licensing process so far.

The others include Freeland businessman Lucas Jushinski, owner of Island Alternative Medicine, and Herbs and Buds and W&L Holdings in Oak Harbor. Staff at Jushinski’s shop said he was out of the country this week and could not be reached for comment. According to his application with the state, Jushinski will operate the Green Dragon in the same commercial space as his existing business.

As for Whidbey Island Cannabis Company, Cooke has leased a retail space on the second floor of a small commercial complex on Kramer Road in Bayview.

Finding a location was tough, said Cooke, due to tight state rules that restrict where retail marijuana stores can set up shop. She was initially looking at a Clinton location, but it fell through and she stumbled across the Bayview site.

“I called and signed a lease right away,” she said.

According to the liquor control board’s website, retail marijuana stores can’t be located “within 1,000 feet of any elementary or secondary school, playground, recreation center or facility, child care center, public park, public transit center, library, or game arcade that allows minors to enter. Local authorities will also be notified and have an opportunity to object.”

Cooke plans to carry a host of products, from oils and paraphernalia — pipes, papers, etc., — to about 20 different strains of marijuana. As per the state’s rules, each strain must come from approved and licensed growers.

“We can’t be going to ‘Joe’ over at the high school,” she said.

Cooke operates a successful bar in Langley and saw the possibilities for another profitable enterprise while watching the legalization process unfold in Colorado. Like Washington, Colorado voters approved the recreational use of marijuana in 2012.

“I saw it as a business opportunity,” she said.

Cooke’s been working through the state’s review process since December, following the liquor board’s adoption of the rules that will regulate the marijuana industry in Washington. The process has been rigorous and slow, and while she believes the end is in sight Cooke couldn’t say when she’ll get the green light from the state.

Once the final box is checked, however, she plans to move quickly, and the shop will operate seven days a week. Three women from Seattle medicinal stores have been hired to staff the new store, but Cooke plans to transition to local help over the long term.

Brian Smith, the spokesman for the Washington State Liquor Control Board, said the agency should start issuing licenses in June and he expects pot shops to begin opening in July.


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