Here’s a notable caveat: About half of the retailers — almost 100 — are licensed to sell marijuana, but are based elsewhere in the state, and therefore are considered “large” marijuana stores, meaning they have at least 25,000 square feet of retail space. Almost all are located in Virginia, according to the report, which also does not include a single retailer in Maryland, another state with legalized marijuana.
“It’s a lot of retail. It’s not like you can build a lot of retail space in people’s backyards,” the lawmaker who oversaw the report said.
But he said that having a certain number of stores would not necessarily set the stage for more businesses to open, or for any kind of drug-related crime, as long as licenses are issued only on a first-come, first-served basis. He predicted that despite increases in nighttime crime during the first months of legal sales, it would decrease in the future, given the advent of better surveillance and police staffing.
The primary issue with retail stores, he said, is competition — who would become the lowest bidder to license and build a new store? Then there’s the environmental impact of concentrated sales, he said, because more pot retailers mean more traffic on local streets. That will have to be balanced with demand in an economy still not fully healthy, he said.
But if the first week-long pot sales stretch in Fort Washington to northward to Charles County, as some believe, and marijuana becomes commonplace in the region’s suburban sprawl, then the tipping point may already have been reached.
But there is a big challenge in owning marijuana businesses. Several states, like Colorado, see an increase in violent crime after marijuana stores open, even though marijuana is widely regarded as relatively safe. The recent spate of muggings of tourists in Denver has renewed interest in the best way to prevent robberies from happening. But in Washington state, the only place with a recreational marijuana law, there have been no recent reports of robbery in the bars and clubs frequented by tourists, a state lawmaker said.