By Patrick L. Myers
Miller’s Marijuana is a retail shop in Washington state. Located in Porter, they aren’t exactly the most accessible; they’re not out in the boonies, but they’re not right down the block from your apartment in the city either.
“It’s not that people can compete; nobody competes with us, but ... they’re more convenient, whereas we’re out in the middle of nowhere. Originally that was fine; we were the only game in the area unless you were going to Olympia,” said Josh Miller, owner of Miller’s Marijuana.
Miller pointed out that initially this was not an issue for their retail store, because they offered what were possibly the lowest prices in the state. But some time after recreational marijuana in Washington came online, the revenue was less than expected and the state’s solution was to allot more retail licenses.
Originally, the state allocated a limited number of retail stores to each county in the state, which created a sort of monopoly for the retail owners, where they could value their businesses based on the exclusivity provided by the state. “The state basically reported that my county would have three stores and that’s it. Now there are more than 14 stores,” said Miller.
This meant that marijuana in Washington was now more accessible, so the convenience for consumers put Miller at a disadvantage in the battle of lower prices versus convenience that he is trying to win.
According to Miller, they were “the 27th store in the state to open and did it with less money than any store in state.” Despite that fact, they gambled with a loan requiring 120% interest. “Would you do that if you knew that six months later it would be as exclusive as an AM/PM gas station?” asked Miller.
Miller also reported that this “second round” of retail licensees had easier regulations to get through.
“When we decided to go through with the store, we had a higher standard of rules to follow; there was no give or take on the [state] regulations. Now, you can get some wiggle room, so all of these stores that came in the second round of retail licenses can get their restrictions reduced,” Miller’s point out that it wasn’t fair after going through what he and other “first round” retailers had to go through.
Since Miller had originally addressed the issue of competition with lower prices, he needed another solution to the increased, yet more convenient, competition.
“The only thing we can do to combat this breach in exclusivity is keep the store open more hours. Since the store opened, we have always had the cheapest product in the state,” said Miller, “At this point our strategy is to keep our customers coming back, and to gradually gain customers [so we] have a large base of recurring customers.”