NEW YORK — Cannabis Corner is the first recreational pot shop in the U.S. to be owned and operated by a government agency. Profits will fund local projects — and upgrading the playground is the first order of business for the tiny city of North Bonneville, Washington.
Right now the tot lot has just two swings and is “pretty pathetic,” according to Mayor Don Stevens.
When marijuana became legal in Washington state in 2012, North Bonneville officials saw an opportunity for the cash-strapped city, which currently has just $20,000 in the bank.
Pot is taxed at 25% by the state, but all of those funds go to Washington. So the city council had to get creative if it wanted to profit from legal pot. It decided to set up an independent government agency to run Cannabis Corner, which opened on Saturday.
It’s an unorthodox arrangement, but it means that all of the pot shop’s profits will go to North Bonneville.
“The overall guideline is to use the money for anything that has a positive impact on public health and safety in our community,” said Mayor Stevens, who just ordered new license plates that read “MJ Mayor.” The funds could also help cover local law-enforcement costs.
As the only recreational pot shop in the city or the county, Cannabis Corner has the market, well, cornered. The closest competitor is more than 45 minutes away.
It’s expected to make $225,000 this year, said John Spencer, the former city manager and a consultant to the shop. And he expects sales to nearly double next year, although the fact that pot will be legal in nearby Oregon could siphon off some sales.
The funds will be a big boost for a city with an annual operating budget of $600,000 and a population of 1,000.
The store’s operations are currently funded with private loans, and it’s not clear yet how exactly the profits will be allocated, Spencer said.
The agency running the store can’t just dump all the money into North Bonneville’s general fund. Instead, the agency will grant funds to the city for specific projects.
By Katie Lobosco