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Local company set to grow pot

— Legally grown marijuana has arrived in North-Central Washington.

Monkey Grass Farms began bringing plants in to its Wenatchee facility Monday after announcing it has received producer and processor business licenses from the state Liquor Control Board.

“We received about 1,500 plants today, and we’ll have another 1,500 by Friday,” co-owner Eric Cooper said. “We still have some electrical work that’s still in progress, but other than that we’re moving right along.”

Monkey Grass Farms has five owners. The other four are Lynette Key, Mary Cooper, Katie Cooper and Joni Elder.

“We’re super excited” to be among the first in the state to receive licenses,” Key said. The company is waiting for two more Tier 3 producer licenses to come through for its outdoor facility north of Omak, located at 14 Monkey Grass Road Suite A, off U.S. Highway 97.

A fence has already been constructed around three acres of land on property Monkey Grass Farms is leasing from longtime resident Richard “Bud” Vest. There are plans to build another fence on an adjacent three acres. A 30-by-40-foot building on an outside corner of the fenced-in area will house baby plants in the off-season, Key said.

For an outdoor business, growing season will be from springtime until October. Because the Omak facility won’t be ready to start operations until next year, Monkey Grass Farms decided to put more of its resources now into the indoor Wenatchee facility, 3710 Highway 97 A, where growing can be done year-round.

The indoor facility has five bays – “bloom rooms,” Key called them – each containing about 60,000 watts’ worth of lighting fixtures to provide warmth for the budding plants. One area of the building is reserved to cultivate new plants and processing is done on-site.

Marijuana produced in Omak will be processed in Wenatchee, Key said.

The Omak facility lies outside of the city limits. That means the company won’t have to seek a business license from the city, which has already established it will not issue licenses to those whose operations are illegal under local, state or federal laws.

Although Washington state voters approved Initiative 502 to legalize marijuana in 2012, it is still federally illegal.

Despite the city’s stance on marijuana-related business, Key said Monkey Grass Farms isn’t worried about finding retailers to work with.

“Just being the first kind of out of the gate I think will help us, and once you establish a good relationship with any retailer they’ll stick with you,” she said.

So far, Monkey Grass Farms has spent about $30,000 in Okanogan County on materials, local labor and construction equipment, she said. The company estimates it could pay the state $1.3 million in sales taxes the first year alone.

“They anticipate Okanogan County will become the marijuana mecca of this state,” she said. “This is one of 40 (business license applicants) in this area. That’s a lot of economic growth. A lot of jobs will come into this area.”

Key did express some concern about having enough supply for retailers out of the gate, because of the time it takes to harvest and process plants.

A plant takes about 90 days to grow before it’s ready for harvesting.

As of April 15, the state had issued 12 producer licenses to companies in the Spokane area or on the west side of the Cascade Mountains.

Twenty applications have been withdrawn from the process, including one from Okanogan County – C.B. Farm, 102 Second St. in Brewster.

Key said applicants were given the option to withdraw and receive a refund.

Processor licenses were issued to 10 companies that also received producer licenses. Fourteen applicants have withdrawn, none from North-Central Washington.

The Liquor Control Board has not issued any retailer licenses. A lottery was scheduled to begin this week to determine which qualified applicants should receive retailer licenses.

In Okanogan, Ferry and Douglas counties, the number of applicants exceeds the number of allotted licenses.

Okanogan County is allotted five, with one earmarked for Omak; Ferry County gets one; and Douglas County could have three retailers, with one required to be located in East Wenatchee.

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