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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Four People You Meet In/Near a Vancouver Pot Store

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Wed, Jul 9, 2014 at 1:44 PM

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See that discriminating fellow in the tie-dye shirt? If you've been paying even slight attention to coverage of Vancouver's first recreational pot shop today, you know him as Salem's Mark Edwards, who'd been waiting in line since around 3:30 am to snag the first spot in line at Main St. Marijuana. He went, discerningly, with a 4 gram, $100 bag of "J's Famous Kush," reveled in his fame with a few more interviews, and headed promptly to the Subway down the street.

This may be new and historic, but it's still smoking weed.

That's not to discount how big today is for Portlanders and Vancouverites and local suburbanites alike. Yes, as the Portland Police Bureau reminded us recently, marijuana possession's still illegal in Oregon. But it's also among the PPB's lowest priorities, and IT'S COMPLETELY LEGAL TO PURCHASE JUST ACROSS THE RIVER. Keep from driving while stoned and smoking in public and you're probably good. A testament to that sentiment: The first five people in line at Main St. Marijuana this morning were Oregonians.

By now, anything you can write about Washington's recreational pot rollout seems tired. Yes, supply is still low—Main St. Marijuana had just 7.5 pounds to go around today. That had to satisfy a line snaking well down the block along with, presumably, the jam band that had set up out front. And yes, it's expensive: $25 or so a gram (with tax), with a maximum of 5 grams per person up for grabs in the store today. The store's managers expect that will plummet in coming months to roughly $8 per gram, which is apparently competitive with the black market. (I was chatting with New Approach Oregon spokesman Peter Zuckerman outside the shop, and we realized neither of us knew what the street price is for a gram of quality pot. And then we realized we both really should know that.)

Anyway, it's all been written, or it's all being written. So I thought I'd give you a quick rundown of my four favorite interactions from this, my first-ever trip into Vancouver proper.

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4. Jim Campbell, Vancouver: Jim's a cool customer, who showed up to purchase legal weed yesterday morning, not realizing Main St. Marijuana didn't open until 11 am today. By the time he arrived at about 10:15 am, the line was already a block long. And though his wife, Marcia, had her doubts there'd be anything left by the time they reached the store, Jim wasn't sweating it (some of that confidence was misplaced, since he was sure the store had 20 pounds of pot to go around; it really has 7.5). The couple was very seriously smoking cigarettes, but you got the impression that was habit rather than stress. "I'm just gonna buy a gram, get the receipt, and stick it in a frame for posterity," Jim told me, making very sure I realized he "didn't need the smoke." "I'm 69," Jim said. "I've been smoking pot for 50 years." I hope he and Marcia got ahold of a bag.

3. Chris Stipe, Manager, Main St. Marijuana: Stipe is dressed, today, in a mafioso style pinstripe suit, and generously giving interviews to any and all media who approach. He makes this rarefied list only because I appreciated how easy it was to get him to level. He gave a TV reporter a very serious-sounding answer about how Main St. Marijuana hopes to cater to the "affluent traveler." But I pressed him on it, and he admitted it was sort of an act. "I'm for anybody and everybody," he told me. "I want everyday people. The prices are just gonna be high for a little while." I asked Stipe why the store chose to open at 11 am today, not earlier in the morning like other stores in the state. "That's when the mayor wanted to come down," he said, before sort of pulling back and giving a more measured answer about 11 am working with his timeline. That brings us to:


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2. Tim Leavitt, Mayor, Vancouver: Ugh, right? A politician posturing with a ribbon cutting ceremony outside of a pot shop? Spare us your political theatrics, Leavitt! His comments to media weren't even that interesting—mostly boilerplate about how marijuana's a lot like alcohol regulation, how you shouldn't drive high and, remember, it's still illegal to have this stuff across the river. Pretty sure he even said something about the weather. God help any babies who happened to stroll into Main St. Marijuana around 11 am this morning. They'd have been drown in Leavitt's kisses— smothered, like their nascent lungs in a haze of "J's Famous Kush."

Actually, the mayor seemed okay. He makes this list because of his careful, somewhat meandering response when asked if he'd be making a purchase. "No, I saw what the prices are," he said. Then, realizing what this implied, he added: "I've travelled internationally... and spent time in Amsterdam," (suggesting, I guess, that he's carefully compared the price of a gram of pot in euros, in Amsterdam, to the prices in dollars being offered at Main St. Marijuana). He capped it off with: "Maybe I'll wait until the price goes down."

1. Shirley Pea, Vancouver. As far as I know, this is my favorite person in all of southwest Washington. After departing the media scrum and stepping into the nearly empty Subway across the street, I said something to the Sandwich Artists like "business hasn't picked up yet, eh?" Tiny, 75-year-old Shirley Pea promptly piped up from her table in the corner. "Why?" she asked. "Because of the dopers?" Pea lives in a nearby housing development, and she's squarely against more pot in the neighborhood. There was the distinct impression that, in Pea's mind, speaking of marijuana is tantamount to using profanity. Before any mention of pot or its use she'd sort of hesitate, as if feeling out the situation. "We got people here I know are on.... marijuana," she told me. "My ex-boyfriend is... on it." The best of luck to Shirley Pea.

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