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July 7, 2014

Washington state issues 24 marijuana shop licenses

SEATTLE — Washington state issued its first retail marijuana licenses Monday with a middle-of-the-night email alerting bleary-eyed pot-shop proprietors that they'll finally be able to open for business.

"We're pretty stoked," said John Evich, an investor in Bellingham's Top Shelf Cannabis, in a 2:30 a.m. Pacific time interview with The Associated Press. "We haven't had any sleep in a long time, but we're excited for the next step."

Randy Simmons, the state Liquor Control Board's project manager for legal marijuana, said Sunday night that the first two dozen stores were being notified so early to give them an extra few hours to get cannabis on their shelves before they are allowed to open their doors at 8 a.m. Tuesday. The store openings are expected to be accompanied by high prices, shortages and celebration.

The state licensed 14 stores in western Washington and 10 in eastern Washington.

Spokane has three stores. Vancouver, Tacoma and Bellingham each have two. Seattle and the other cities on the list have one each.

The issuance of the retail licenses marked a major step that's been 20 months in the making. Washington and Colorado stunned much of the world by voting in November 2012 to legalize marijuana for adults over 21, and to create state-licensed systems for growing, selling and taxing the pot.

Sales began in Colorado on Jan. 1.

It remained unclear how many of the pot-shops being licensed in Washington planned to open on Tuesday. Officials eventually expect to have more than 300 recreational pot shops across the state.

At Cannabis City, which will be the first and, for now, only recreational marijuana shop in Seattle, owner James Lathrop worked into the night Sunday placing no-parking signs in front of his building, hoisting a grand-opening banner and hanging artwork before he turned his attention to his email — and the official notification that he was a licensed marijuana dealer.

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