High hopes for Blaine marijuana grower applicants

Published on Wed, Mar 12, 2014 by Quinn Welsch

Read More News

For Suzy Brewster, owning and operating a marijuana business would be a dream come true.

“Anyone who knows me can tell you that I’ve had a love affair with marijuana for a very long time,” said the 28-year-old entrepreneur.

After the Washington State Liquor Control Board (LCB) approved the state’s first license to produce and process marijuana for recreational use on March 5, that dream is becoming closer to a reality. With the help of her brother, Steven Brewster, a biochemist, Suzy hopes to open Blaine’s first marijuana business, Leef, located at 3210 Peace Portal Drive, on the edge of the city’s limits.

Leef would be a tier two producer and processor, meaning the business could grow up to 10,000 square feet of marijuana (all of which would be grown indoors) and that it would process its own products. Leef’s primary product would be marijuana essence, using CO2 as a solvent to force the active ingredients out of the plant material.

Leef and Alandale Growers, another tier-two-producer-processor, are the only businesses the state has confirmed with the city of Blaine for potential licenses, said Blaine city planner Alex Wenger. Leef is the closest business to being licensed in Blaine, Wenger said.

However, the business may have still some hoops to jump through, considering the age of its building, Wenger said. “It’s challenging to find a building that’s ready to go and in the 1,000-foot buffer,” he said. 

The buffer keeps marijuana businesses 1,000 feet outside of any sensitive areas and is part of the state law governing marijuana businesses. Sensitive areas include schools, recreation centers, parks, playgrounds, libraries, child care centers, public transit centers and arcades. 

If the legal paperwork is completed and the business location approved by the city and LCB inspectors, Suzy expects to receive her license in July. Until then, one of her main concerns is making sure the business is received well by the community. Part of that means normalizing the marijuana industry as if it were any other.

So far, public concerns about marijuana businesses opening in Blaine have been fairly minimal, Blaine mayor Harry Robinson said. Blaine voters approved Initiative 502 by 1,308 to 1,086 votes, according to the Whatcom County auditor’s general election results in Blaine’s precincts.

But the issue is still a mixed bag, Robinson said. “All kinds of people are going to have their own approach to it,” he said. “Our job is to stay within the law.”

Steven, Suzy’s brother, shares a similar sentiment. “It’s important for this market to strictly adhere to the guidelines that the LCB has set forth for us, otherwise we’re just going to be sabotaging our own industry,” Steven said. “We’re not just trying to make a quick dollar here, we’re trying to establish a new level of responsibility in this industry that’s just emerging.” 

“We’re going from completely unregulated to highly regulated, and we’re fine with that,” Suzy said. A highly regulated marijuana industry would better serve consumers through better labeling and safer products, she said.

The proposed legal merger of the state’s largely unregulated medical marijuana market and the highly regulated recreational market would benefit consumers, Suzy said. The merger, Senate Bill 5887, was cleared 34–15 on March 8 and is now on its way to the House. Despite some outcry from medical marijuana patients that the merger would limit the amount of marijuana and plants a patient can possess, a merger could provide better labeling and safer products, Suzy said.

Leef’s marijuana strains would be clearly labeled according to a quantifiable dosage, not an arbitrary strain name like those seen in medical dispensaries (i.e. Kush, Diesel, Purps), Steven said. “It’s all about the consumer, and right now, they have a very subpar market,” he said.

Leef’s CO2-induced extract would eliminate any harmful “fluff” users inhale when they smoke marijuana the conventional way. “It’s not only the best way to smoke but it’s the safest as well,” she said.

“We just really want the community to understand that we’re doing everything we can to minimize our impact while maximizing our positive [output],” Suzy said. “It means so much to us; this is my dream.”