Instead of fighting cannabis legalization, one small town near the Oregon/Washington border is planning to cash in on it. Less than two years after cannabis was legalized in the state of Washington, the town of North Bonneville has opened a city-owned marijuana dispensary on March 7th, 2015. If all goes according to plan, the little store could substantially supplement the township’s annual municipal budget.
North Bonneville is a small town with about 1,000 residents. It sits approximately 40 miles northeast of Portland, close to the Washington/Oregon border, nestled comfortably in the Columbia River Gorge. The Cannabis Corner calls a retrofitted and remodeled pole barn on Highway 14 its home and has the distinct honor of being the first dispensary in Skamania County. Profits will be reinvested in the town via grants, and because of its status as a state government owned store, the cannabis sales will not be subject to federal tax.
In order for the North Bonneville township to pursue this unique funding opportunity, they had to create a new branch of local government called the North Bonneville Public Development Authority (NBPDA). The NBPDA has a Board of Directors that has successfully sourced private investment funds to open the dispensary. Even when things got tough and three of the board members dropped out of the project, the remaining members kept pushing for the pot shop.
First, the NBPDA had to establish itself as independent from the city itself and prove to the Washington state Liquor Control Board that they could properly run a cannabis dispensary. The board wasn’t so sure; the NBPDA’s application was originally denied because of the proximity to a local park. Thankfully, the park in question was a privately owned RV park, not public property. The Liquor Control Board eventually reversed their decision and granted the license to the NBPDA.
Should The Cannabis Corner prove unsuccessful and unable to turn a profit, the North Bonneville City Council can dissolve the NBPDA and shut down the store without any cost to taxpayers. The private investments used to open The Cannabis Corner also provide a level of protection for the town. Those investments, including preliminary wages for dispensary employees (who will not be city employees), totaled roughly $280,000. Because the town itself will not be liable for the storefront or its business operations, many see the dispensary as a possible boon to the tiny town as it offers potential for community reinvestment funds without liability, should the business fail.
The cannabis being sold at The Cannabis Corner will be locally grown and organic, helping establish a well-paid professional community of growers and cannabis product producers. If this business model succeeds, the profit from The Cannabis Corner will be funneled back into the local community, especially public health and safety projects. The NBPDA is already planning to upgrade a local playground and the tennis courts at a city park. They also hope to provide more funding for the town Sheriff’s Office, which is struggling to balance its budget. The Cannabis Corner’s projected income for its first year of operations could be as much as $200,000, which is roughly 20% of the town’s entire annual budget.