On Tuesday July 8, James Lathrop opened Cannabis City, Seattle’s first recreational marijuana retail store legal under Washington Initiative 502. Located at 2733 Fourth Avenue South in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood, stores like it are sure to populate the rest of the city — and in effect, noticeably impact marijuana usage in the vibrant Capitol Hill neighborhood.
“It’s an honor to lead the way,” Lathrop said in a Media Release July 3. “This has been a challenging process, but I’m excited to be at the forefront of launching a new, legal marijuana market.”
The grand opening consisted of hundreds of customers and media outlets lined up outside the store, some waiting hours to gain access. Cannabis City possesses one of the city’s 21 retail marijuana licenses — stores such as the anticipated Mello Times on 24th and Union is licensed, but may not open until as late as August. And aside from Mello Times, the closest retail location to Capitol Hill is planned to be at 1725 Westlake Ave.
In light of the new retail store (and many like it yet to come) generating so much media buzz, The Capitol Hill Community Council is set to hold a meeting next Thursday to provide attendees information via a projected panel of experts, including a grower, a distributor, and a political representative.
Community Council President and Seattle Gay News Editor In Chief George Bakan hopes that the meeting will answer some of the community’s questions, as well as furnish dialogue. Bakan chaired the committee that wrote the Medical Use of Marijuana Initiative (I-692) a couple decades back.
“Capitol Hill is home to a very diverse and sophisticated population, and there’s a tremendous amount of restaurants, bars, and abundant nightlife, ” Bakan said. “It is a neighborhood that is very involved in legalization, and there will be a few questions about what will happen. A lot of these processes are not usually accessible to people who have questions.”
While Capitol Hill will inevitably see an increase in recreational marijuana usage, it may not be home to many recreational retail stores. The Liquor Board strictly enforces that stores cannot be set up “within 1000 feet of any elementary or secondary school, playground, recreation center or facility, child care center, public park, public transit center, library, or game arcade that allows minors to enter.” Bakan speculates that this doesn’t allow for much territory for a pot store on Capitol Hill, and that changes will most likely occur in the neighborhood’s usage patterns.
“It’s funny in a way because Capitol Hill is a great counterculture neighborhood, but I know many people who assume that they can retail run into obstacles finding space,” Bakan said. “Since retail stores can’t be near schools, and number of other things, it’s not an easy place to locate.”
Local dispensary Starbuds Cooperative, located on 2315 E John St., is one of few cannabis clinics in the Capitol Hill area. Assistant Manager Janis Ibarra believes that with the establishment of retail stores, clients are going to see the value of medical dispensaries.
“I can see us coexisting just because we do have patients that are facing chronic and rehabilitating illnesses, and they don’t want to be put in the same category as recreational use,” Ibarra said. “I strongly believe that medical is going to have a higher standard than retail.”
NW Green Medical Resource Clinic, located right on Broadway, provides a wide array of resources on how to receive a doctor recommendation to get legally authorized for a cannabis card. Marketing Director Don Lee advises all patients and users to educate themselves on recreational use.
“Our standpoint is that we advise medical patients that there are lots of risk and benefits to cannabis in general, and we would encourage safety first,” Lee said. “We can’t really ignore old conventional thinking: ask a physician before you go on any kind of regimen. A lot of people are entering this recreational realm uneducated.”
Lee encourages those with questions about recreational use to utilize the clinic as a resource.
“Our philosophy has been to medicate responsibly, and we would like to send that message to recreational users to be responsible and compliant to the law,” Lee said. “We encourage people to call us with questions. Like any prescription drug or alcohol, too much of anything can affect people in different ways.”
The Capitol Hill Community Council meeting will be held on Thursday, July 17 at the Cal Anderson Park Shelter House at 6:30 p.m., and is free to the public.
“In the early days, the mantra was ‘Tax and Legalize,’ and you know what we’ve done?” Bakan says. “It took 40 years, but that’s exactly what we’ve just done.”