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New owners to bump Oak Harbor shops for marijuana businesses
The recreational marijuana business is off to a rocky start on North Whidbey.
Mark Calim, owner of Mark’s Auto Repair on Goldie Road, said he and two fellow businesses are effectively being kicked out of their location to make way for pot-related businesses.
And they aren’t happy about it.
Four marijuana-related businesses, including two in the Oak Harbor area, made it through the state licensing process for retail pot stores so far. But neither of the proposed Oak Harbor businesses appear to be located in areas that conform to the city and county’s new marijuana zoning regulations, which will likely doom the ventures.
Consequently, the future of the pot industry in Oak Harbor remains uncertain.
Calim said he received a certified letter this past week advising him that his rent will be increasing by more than 300 percent and he must sign a two-year lease.
His only other option is to get out within 30 days.
After he received the letter, Calim said the new owners of the property stopped by his business and told his employee that they plan to turn their building, and a number of adjacent structures, into marijuana-related businesses.
For Calim, the situation is especially galling because he helps so many people in the community from his shop. He sometimes fixes cars for free, allows people to pay him when they can and generally helps people out of jams.
The marijuana business, by comparison, he said, seems like a fly-by-night venture.
“I don’t see how anything good can come from it,” he said.
Michael Thelen, an Oak Harbor business consultant, said he’s worried that an influx of pot-related business would be bad for the business climate.
“I’m concerned that Marks Auto is being uprooted and may be in jeopardy because of marijuana businesses,” he said, adding that he’s concerned the area could become a “drug haven.”
Documents obtained by the Whidbey News-Times through a public records request show that Scott and Christina Hensrude of Woodinville applied to open a retail recreational marijuana business at 3171 North Goldie Road under the name Herbs and Buds, LLC.
The Hensrudes purchased the property, as well as adjacent structures, under the name 3143-3171 North Goldie LLC.
The Hensrudes could not be reached for comment.
According to Calim, the address of the proposed business is the former sports bar, which is located in front of his repair shop.
Approval of recreational marijuana business, however, doesn’t appear to be imminent.
The property is apparently zoned “Oak Harbor industrial,” said David Wechner, Island County planning director.
Wechner said the recently approved county regulations governing recreational marijuana don’t allow retail pot shops in that zoning.
Rules governing medical marijuana, however, are a different matter, as those types of businesses already exist in the county and are governed by different rules.
State lawmakers are working to combine recreational and medical pot rules.
Meanwhile, William Widner of Kirkland applied, under the name W&L Holding, for a license through the state for a recreational marijuana retail shop at 788 Northeast Midway Boulevard.
But, same problem — the city’s development services director, Steve Powers, said Oak Harbor’s pot ordinance doesn’t allow marijuana businesses in that area, which is zoned “C-3.”
A couple of marijuana businesses proposed for South Whidbey may have better luck.
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 Co. at a location in Bayview.
Cooke hasn’t received final approval from state regulators, 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.”
Cooke said she will carry a variety of products, from oils and paraphernalia — including pipes and papers — to approximately 20 different strains of marijuana.
As per the state’s rules, each strain must come from approved and licensed growers.
Freeland business owner Lucas Jushinski, owner of Island Alternative Medicine, applied to operate the Green Dragon in the same commercial space as his existing business.
Unlike in 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 proposed for Oak Harbor, and only four applicants made it through the criminal background checks, financial inspection and other aspects of the licensing process so far.
Brian Smith, the spokesman for the Washington State Liquor Control Board, said the agency should start issuing licenses in June.
Smith said he consumers can expect to see marijuana shops begin opening in July.
n South Whidbey Record Editor Justin Burnett contributed to this article.