Got Weed Oregonians will Travel
What I heard most Wednesday morning: “Because it’s here, you gotta embrace it, right?” And, “It’s about (expletive) time!”
The crowd waiting outside Main Street Marijuana in Vancouver, one of Washington’s first legal recreational pot shops, was orderly, polite and a little giddy to be a part of history. There were also plenty of tie-dye shirts and men with long hair there to keep the stereotype of pot users alive — for those who want to keep it alive. The online comments I see on news stories about the store’s opening indicate that some do.
The sterotypers should be careful. Did it look like a business crowd? No. But I work and don’t smoke pot, and I looked more like the crowd that was spectating or standing in line to buy than a media type. Wearing flip-flops, no make-up and a favorite, worn T-shirt, I’d just dropped my kids off at a friend’s house when I, too, chose to be present for history in the making. It’s the Northwest, man. Most mornings, a lot of us at-home parents look more like stereotypical pot users than bankers.
At 10:43, I counted 154 people lined up outside Main Street Marijuana for its 11 a.m. opening. When I left the grand-opening an hour later, the line was three blocks long. I talked to about 30 of the potential customers on their way into the shop. About half were Washingtonians and half were Oregonians, and more than half of the Washington folks I talked to voted on the initiative that brought them legal access to recreational pot. All of the Oregonians I spoke with were excited that they would soon have the opportunity to vote on recreational marijuana: In late June, enough initiative signatures were submitted to, once verified, put a legalization measure on the Nov. 4 ballot. Sales would be regulated by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission and taxed. Smoking in public would be prohibited, as it is in Washington.
People who don’t think Oregonians will go five minutes into Washington to buy relatively expensive, legal weed, even when they aren’t allowed to bring it back over the state line and smoke it, are mistaken. At least they were Wednesday.
The first guy in line at the Vancouver store was Mark Edwards, a 42-year-old, tie-dye wearing man from Salem. He said he would be taking the weed to a relative’s house in Washington to smoke. Most Oregonians I talked to were aware they weren’t legally able to bring marijuana back to Oregon with them. But not all who gathered were aware pot couldn’t be consumed in public in Washington.
I watched one man ask a worker at Viridian Sciences, a marijuana industry software services firm that has its offices just two blocks from Main Street Marijuana, if the parking lot it was using to host an event called “Weed and Weenies” while advertising its services to the new industry was a beer garden of sorts. “Is this a beer garden?” the man asked, adding, “I mean, can I smoke pot here?” The Viridian employee then educated the man on the state’s new law.
I agree with both of the statements I kept hearing: People do smoke pot. And because I think pot can be used more responsibly and not responsibly, just like alcohol, it is about time it was legal and taxed. Burying your head in the sand isn’t even advisable at Cannon Beach.
I also think that because legalization is here, or coming to a state near you, we need to embrace it. Vancouver did that well Wednesday. The mayor was at the store’s opening to cut the ribbon. He also wisely took the opportunity to encourage responsible — as possible — marijuana use. Viridian was supplying information about safe drug use and how to talk to kids about drugs. Vancouver’s Uptown Village was more people-populated than normal, and nearby business owners and workers I talked with sounded fine with their new neighbor.
People near the shop are more concerned about a proposed McDonald’s moving into the neighborhood and changing its character than they are the marijuana store. The city is still weighing that version of “progress.”
Legalization is becoming commonplace and we’ll be talking to our kids about the pot prohibition days in no time. It’s fine — good, even — if we all have a group hug after this part of the drug war. And watchful community eyes are always useful in making sure everyone is being a good neighbor, which Main Street Marijuana seems determined to be.
Elizabeth Hovde writes Sunday columns for The Oregonian.