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How the media (almost) killed Seattle’s first legal buzz

Reporters and pot-enthusiasts created a circus in front of Cannabis City, Seatle's first recreational pot store. Credit: Emily Wooldridge

The opening of Seattle’s first retail pot shop amassed a zoo. While members of the media crowded Cannabis City’s front door, flapping their press passes and craning their cameras like giraffes, about 200 people waited in 80-plus degree heat.

Passing out water to the crowd, a Cannabis City cashier said she had passed out dozens of bottles already. 

Car drivers — and a Waste Management truck — honked as they drove past the store near Fourth Avenue South and Lander Street. But were they simply tooting in celebration or, in part, as a warning to all those reporters trickling into traffic?

While a Cannabis City security guard repeatedly asked reporters to stay behind fencing, Seattle’s first recreational pot shoppers were allowed inside Cannabis City 13 minutes after the scheduled noon opening (a delay that had produced some shouted complaints from would-be customers). A Cannabis City employee wearing a red hat screened media requests for entry, holding a clipboard with what she said was a list of about four dozen different media agencies from across the country.

But, in the festive atmosphere, reporters generally were given something akin to V.I.P. treatment. They entered the store before many people who had been waiting in line since the wee hours of the morning.

“I’ve moved 25 feet. in one hour,” said a man who had been waiting in line since 9 a.m. to buy Seattle’s first legal bud. “It’s because of those V.I.Ps, but that’s just part of the show.”

A Cannabis City cashier Andrew Powers predicted that it would be unlikely for Cannabis City to run out of supply by closing time, simply because only a handful of people were let in at a time.

With bright yellow trim outside and a clean-cut logo sporting Seattle’s trademark Space Needle, Cannabis City appeared far friendlier than most places people have been able to purchase pot up till now. The space is clean, with walls painted a sophisticated green, and the staff was friendly.

Andrew and Adam Powers, Cannabis City cashiers and twin brothers, were happy to answer questions and offer sample sniffs of the store’s strain selection. Cannabis City offers four strains of pot — OG's Pearl, Sweet Lafayette, OG's Kush and Copper Kush, which Andrew described as “nutty" — with different TCH levels. But pot isn’t the only progressive offering — Cannabis City employees are paid a $15 minimum wage, Andrew Powers said. There is also a wide selection of pipes and bongs available for purchase at Cannabis City; some glow in the dark.

Powers said he hasn’t tried the pot that’s on shelves yet, but plans to soon so he can “be a better salesman.” He wants to try the OG's Pearl first, because “it smells sweet, like smooth wine.”

The Powers twins, Andrew said, were huge supporters of I-502 and have been working toward this moment for a long time. “I see a lot of familiar faces,” Andrew said, nodding at others who have been long-time supporters of legal, recreational marijuana.

Surrounding businesses and pop-up vendors were also giving Cannabis City a symbolic high-five. People sold black ink drawings beside the line, while Seattle Cookie Counter — a food truck launched by a Kickstarter campaign — offered vegan ice cream treats.

“We’ve sold about 20 ice creams so far, not as many as we expected” said Chris Olson of Seattle Cookie Counter. “But we expect things to pick up once it gets hotter” — or perhaps when people start getting the munchies.

Manager of the Subway next-door Chris Rodriguez was the day’s hero. He calmly delivered drinks and subs to famished people in line, while being followed by a KING 5 cameraman.

At the epicenter of today’s microphones and notepads was Deb Greene, a 65-year-old Seattle native.

If you saw Greene walking down the street, you would be unlikely to peg her as a pot smoker. She didn’t buy her pipe until after retirement, she said, and never tokes up around her family. Greene didn’t even intend to be Seattle’s first recreational buyer: She decided to take part in history on a whim yesterday afternoon, after seeing no one in line.

On Monday night, Greene slept in a sleeping bag on the SoDo sidewalk, and got a taste of Cannabis City’s hospitality. Cannabis City owner James Lathrop and his significant other offered Greene strawberries and cream last night, she said.

Today, Greene bought 8 grams of marijuana for $160, but she’s saving one of the bags to donate to Seattle’s Museum of History & Industry, she said. Greene may even include that in her will.

The reality of her name and picture being plastered around the media sphere doesn’t make Greene blush. She doesn’t think her family will be surprised, she said.

“They know their grandma is a little odd.” 

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