Why pot shops in Spokane County are all so close together

click to enlarge Royals' Division Street location gives them a lot of neighbors in the same business. - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
Young Kwak photo
Royals' Division Street location gives them a lot of neighbors in the same business.

Spokane County is home to 33 licensed cannabis retailers, a number that may seem astronomically high or impossibly low depending on just where in the county you are.

In certain places, it seems like there are dispensaries on every corner. Because, in those places, there basically are dispensaries on every corner. Take the busy commercial district surrounding 29th and Regal on the South Hill. One block east of the intersection sits the Vault. Around the corner and down the block you'll find Satori.

Between the 9400 block and 10500 block of east Trent in Millwood, you'll find Cannabis & Glass, Green Light and Sativa Sisters. Same thing on Francis between Crestline and Division, a mile-and-a-half stretch home to Lovely Buds, Cannabis & Glass and the Green Nugget; turn onto Division in either direction and you'll encounter Royals or Cinder almost immediately.

There are eight of these clusters located around the county. From Airway Heights, where the Top Shelf and Toker Friendly are within two blocks of each other, to State Line, where cheap cigarettes dominate on the Idaho side and Nirvana, Cannabis & Glass, Apex and Primo have staked claims on each of the main roads into Washington.

In all, 22 of the 33 retailers in the county operate within a few blocks of at least one other retailer.

Why are businesses with largely the exact same inventory, who compete directly with one another, opening up in each other's back yards? The answer is government regulation. RCW 69.50.331 states, "the state liquor and cannabis board may not issue a license for any premises within 1,000 feet of the perimeter of the grounds of any elementary or secondary school, playground, recreation center or facility, child care center, public park, public transit center, or library, or any game arcade admission to which is not restricted to persons aged 21 years or older."

click to enlarge Cinder North is right around the corner from several other cannabis shops.
Cinder North is right around the corner from several other cannabis shops.

That's a lot of places, and it's not even all of them.

On top of those are zoning requirements put in place by individual municipalities. In Spokane Valley, retailers can't be located within 1,000 feet of any of the locations listed by the RCW, nor can they be within 1,000 feet of the Centennial Trail. In Airway Heights, they can only operate in areas specifically zoned commercial or industrial, and they can't front Highway 2. Medical Lake's municipal code prohibits retailers outright.

This all results in a map that is overwhelmingly off-limits for cannabis retailers, except for a few select spots where business is open and booming. ♦

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