By Garrett Bekemeyer
Over where Pacific Avenue switches from the eastside into Lacey sits Green Lady Marijuana, a shop with the distinction of being the first recreational marijuana store to grace our dear city with its presence. The drive over was pleasant—a brisk day in February, carrying the scent of discovery, graced with the sweetness of a Sunday hangover.
Green Lady Marijuana opened in the middle of August and it’s been a bumpy start—for the shop, and for the state’s fledgling marijuana regulation. Now a little down the road, business seems to be booming as the system, for the most part, has been worked out.
I didn’t really have a clear picture in my head of what the experience was going to be like. I was thinking I would just show up to some weird seedy shop to talk to someone a little about weed uncomfortably and leave. I felt winds of bewilderment overtake me, as I sat in the foyer next to the grinning president of the shop and “Welcome to Paradise” by Green Day played over Pandora radio.
I started out asking Mike Redman, co-owner and president, to tell me the process of opening a recreational marijuana. He responded with a chuckle, “Planning. Lots of planning.” He went on to explain how competitive it was in the beginning to apply for a shop license. Thurston County allowed for 11 retail shops to start up, with two in Olympia’s city limits.
Redman estimated around nine people applied for the licenses. The process that followed began as a land grab, with applicants renting out different locations in the hopes one would succeed in getting a license. After finding location, they had to pay a $250 fee to apply for the license, but had to apply several times to improve their chances of getting one.
Locations weren’t too easy to come by. The exacting legal parameters for where shops can be made it difficult to find a suitable location. Stores cannot be, for example, be within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, or libraries. There were apparently no ideal spots on the westside.
“The taxes are too high,” Redman said, referring to why the situation in Washington isn’t ideal, compared to the system in Colorado.
Back in the summer of 2014, Green Lady posted online about the bumpy start: the system was still trying to work out all the legal ramifications, and therefore, the supply to the shops was quite low, as licenses to growers and producers also began to be distributed. It was also a hassle trying to delegate the overall management of the system at the state level, which ended up in the hands of the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB).
But now, with the first season of outdoor marijuana harvested, the WSLCB has declared a surplus. Prices are dropping, putting them in competition with the cheap medical marijuana prices, though they are still higher than black market rates. Redman said the current legislative session will hopefully get the steep taxes sorted out. “For the first time in 80 years, prohibition is ending. You’re able to walk in a store and buy it without any type of illness.” There was an infectious excitement in his voice.
After our brief whirlwind of a conversation, I asked Redman to take me into the shop and show me what’s going on. “The first thing you notice is there’s no smell,” said the exceptionally friendly cashier/counter attendant Deon. I was flabbergasted as I scanned the room. It was so orderly and pristine. In hindsight, my expectations were foolish. Of course it wasn’t going to be some dark seedy den with customers freely trying the product and being all-around questionable.
Marijuana is a serious business. There are standards and regulations they adhere to and incredible quality control—they have a lab just down the street. Deon showed me some products in the case (everything from straight doobies, to edibles, to pipes). He looked at a package and exclaimed, “That looks like some decent bud!”
It was easy to see how invested they are in their service. Deon explained the color-coded tag system that lets the customers know the chemical content (THC) of the products. It was incredible to see the idea of that seedy pot dealer you had as a kid slashed and turned into a beautiful, reputable shop. They put hard work into getting here and they deserve it. And they know their customers deserve the experience.