To put things in proper perspective, North Bonneville is broke. The small city in Washington with about 1,010 residents, located across from the Columbia River, has been struggling for a while to make ends meat due to state budget cuts and a slow economy. Instead of waiting for their economy to magically fix itself, residents and city officials in the city decided to take matters into their own hands, and open the nation's first government owned marijuana dispensary this month.
"I sat on $30,000 worth of bills for six weeks," said Steve Hasson, the city's administrator, clerk and treasurer to Willamette Week. "I gotta tell you, I was embarrassed. A government agency, of all things, not being able to pay its bills."
Rather than continuing the downward spiral of their economic slump, Hasson and city mayor, Don Stevens decided to take advantage of the booming marijuana industry in Washington, on the government's dime. Spear heading the application process for marijuana, North Bonneville was approved for two state-issued marijuana licenses, and opened up the first government owned dispensary named the Cannabis Corner( 484 Evergreen Drive, North Bonneville, Wash., 509-427-4393) on March 7.
"If we're going to to help ourselves, we'd better do for ourselves. It's better that you have a survival strategy," said Hasson to Willamette Week.
Ran by the city's public development authority and established with assistance from a $15,000 loan, which has since been paid back, Hasson and city officials are banking on the revenues that the Cannabis Corner will eventually bring to the state's economy.
"The reality is that our property values are already at record lows. It's hard to imagine how being in the forefront of an emerging era with the increased tourist traffic, greater economic opportunities and a national media (presence) could lower property values any further," the town said to USA Today. "The only way appears to be up."
By operating the store, the city gets to keep all profits and under state marijuana laws, the revenues go back to Washington state, unlike Colorado, where cities and towns collect their own taxes from retail sales.
Although the new dispensary will be competing with private marijuana enterprises, no opposition has voiced a concern yet, especially since neighboring communities such as Yakima, banned all marijuana sales. Along with glass pipes
and other smoking paraphernalia, the dispensary will also be selling $15 grams of bud from three different Washington producers (below what most recreation shops charge) which may not be a bad selling point for their opening month's revenues.