In his second-floor office above a hair salon in north Seattle, Ryan Kunkel is seated on a couch placing $1,000 bricks of cash — dozens of them — in a rumpled brown paper bag. When he finishes, he stashes the money in the trunk of his BMW and sets off on an adrenalized drive downtown, darting through traffic and nervously checking to see if anyone is following him.
Despite the air of criminality, there is nothing illicit in what Mr. Kunkel is doing. He co-owns five legal medical marijuana dispensaries, and on this day he is heading to the Washington State Department of Revenue to commit the ultimate in law-abiding acts: paying taxes. After about 25 minutes at the agency, Mr. Kunkel emerges with a receipt for $51,321.
“Carrying such large amounts of cash is a terrible risk that freaks me out a bit because there is the fear in my mind that the next car pulling up beside me could be the crew that hijacks us,” he said. “So, we have to play this never-ending shell game of different cars, different routes, different dates and different times.”
Legal marijuana merchants like Mr. Kunkel — mainly medical marijuana dis. . . . . READ MORE
It’s not every day that a former Microsoft executive holds a press conference to announce his new venture into the exciting and profitable world of drug dealing. But that’s exactly what happened earlier this month when Jamen Shively, a former Microsoft corporate strategy manager, announced that he wants to create the equivalent of Starbucks in the newly legalized pot industry in Washington state.
All this is happening at the same time that the Washington State Liquor Control Board is looking to finalize rules on the new, legal marijuana industry. And one of the major debates right now among board members is how much they ought to prevent or encourage the kind of market consolidation in which a few firms dominate the whole industry.
As Chris Marr of the Liquor Control Board argued, “How do you prevent a Microsoft millionaire from getting this idea and deciding that — playing by the rules — they’re going to dominate the market?” And if that is the concern, what can economics inform us about how this new market should be set up?
To provide some background, voters in Washington state passed Initiative 502 . . . . . READ MORE