Small Washington town looks to strike it rich with pot

Small Washington town looks to strike it rich with pot
NORTH BONNEVILLE, Wash. -- As Washington State prepares to step into the brave new world of retail marijuana, city leaders in one small town are taking a unique approach to capitalizing on the pot law.

On the banks of the mighty Columbia, just a short drive from the powerful Bonneville dam, sits the hamlet of North Bonneville.

The town of just over 1,000 souls is so quiet you can almost hear the grass growing in the central business district.

But the sleepy town has big dreams. Don Stevens, the self-described marijuana mayor, and city administrator Steve Hasson think they're just the men to bring those dreams to life.

"We're innovative, we think outside the box, we're risk-takers," Hasson said.

The first part of the plan is to open a city-owned retail marijuana store.

"If pot is the final straw that gets people to come out here and check us out, so be it," Mayor Stevens said.

Stevens and Hasson have already picked out a storefront in an area of town where there aren't many homes. They've also set up a public development association to operate the business.

Stevens said there are a lot of reasons for the town to get into retail pot.

"The biggest one is to just try to protect the public health and safety and keep some of that revenue within the community," he said.

North Bonneville figures the new pot law will cost every community in Washington extra for law enforcement. But the state won't be sharing any of its pot tax revenue, so North Bonneville hopes to pay for its extra expenses by opening its own store.

"I think a better way to handle the circumstance is to grab it by the horns and say we're going to be in the driver's seat," Hasson said.

The town even has an idea about where they'll get the pot to sell. Farmer Tom Lauerman has been growing marijuana for the medical marijuana market for years, and he hopes to eventually jump into the recreational pot market.

Lauerman said the state is naïve to assume there will be enough marijuana for retail stores to open by July, because pot takes months to grow, dry, process and test.

"So for them to think that it's all gonna happen so quick, they're kind of delusional," he said. "All this stuff takes a process and this is an agricultural product."

In North Bonneville, opinions about the pot plans are mixed. Resident Richard Mortweet said he'll do something he hasn't done in years.

"I'll probably try it again, yeah," he said.

But others, it appears, are not sold on the idea.

"Some of them say, 'Well, we have to do something in the town,' and yet others will say, 'Not that, anything but that,'" said resident Mary Armantrout.

The state is only issuing 334 retail marijuana licenses, and North Bonneville should know by Friday if they've made the cut.