[In their continuing coverage of new recreational pot shops opening in Washington state, The Stranger's Charles Mudede visits our next-door-neighbor to the north, Vancouver, WA to check out their first shop, opening today.—eds.]
"The whole place was built for a safe," said Chris Stipe, one of the managers of Main Street Marijuana as I talked with him yesterday. "It used to be a jewelry store, which closed back in June, I think, and it was not easy for us to find the right location for the business. There are these rules and guidelines you have to follow, and you have to hope the landlord is totally cool with it. It's legal but it's a new thing." The glass cabinets that once displayed golden rings, glittering necklaces, and sparkling gems will soon display two strains of pot in neat little packages. The variety in the store, however, will not be found in the pot but in pot's paraphernalia, which are presently displayed on the top of the glass cabinets—pretty pipes, pipes that look like bones, psychedelic pipes, and an unusual cast of baroque bongs. At the north corner of the space is an ATM (the business can only accept cash), and behind it is the massive safe. "Generally the feeling about this store's opening has been very positive. There have not been any protesters, the situation is not political, and the city isn't divided," says Stipe.
Indeed, this has been my impression. Vancouver is really relaxed about this major turning point in its history.
More after the jump...
A group of middle-classy, middle-aged women who sat outside a coffee shop down the road were not at all harsh or worried about the Main Street Marijuana's grand opening, when I asked for their opinions. "No comment, but your business is your business," said one among them said, and all nodded their heads in agreement, without a hint of contempt or concern. And a lady working at a nearby hotel, Judy, said: "I thought I would never see anything like it in my life, and I have been alive for 60 years." An old man named Tim who overheard us talking about the pot store said, with the little breath he could muster: “I lived here for 20 years, and I leave this town for 6 months and comeback and everything has changed… But I will say, I'm sure the legal pot will be as bad as the illegal pot. That’s been my experience.” The one person who had anything bad to say about the matter was Laura, a woman who was moving her belongings into an apartment nearby: “Look what smoking cigarettes has done to people, and what alcohol has done, and now we have to add marijuana.” There was no moral tone in her criticism.
"The business will be good for the economy," Stipe said as I talked to him yesterday a day before the scheduled opening. "There are already ten or so people working in a factory cleaning and packaging the pot. We are hiring people. We will attract tourists. In fact they are already coming. A guy from North Carolina came over thinking today is opening day. There will be more like him flying in." Outside, a steady stream of people, young and old, were being turned away—they too got the wrong day. They thought, like the North Carolinian, that yesterday was the day the mayor was cutting the ribbon and opening a new chapter in the story of Vancouver, Washington. For them, it was supposed to be the day you could finally by pot from a store like a normal human being.