Cannabis City, Seattle's first legal pot store, is now open for business. Located in the industrial SoDo neighborhood on 4th Ave S, Cannabis City's location would be inconspicuous to passersby if it were not for the media frenzy taking place outside its doors today. Early this morning, there were more reporters than people waiting in line. However, as the clock rolled towards noon, a crowd of 200 people gathered - notably not as big as the thousands of people that some had predicted to turn out for the event.
Most Seattleites coming out for the opening arrived by 5 or 6 a.m., hailing from diverse parts of Seattle and beyond. One woman, Deb Green of Ballard, had been waiting outside since last night. Green, who signed the petition to legalize marijuana in 2012, said she was "excited to see it [finally] sold legally" and that she wanted to "share in" on this historic and "exciting moment for Seattle."
Two other men, standing in line since 6 a.m., said they had been involved with marijuana activism "for years" and were "here for freedom." Kevin, from Shoreline, came out to wait in line at 7 a.m. out of sheer curiosity to see what kind of spectacle the opening would bring. While some in line commented that Cannabis City is "in a safe location where we'll keep [marijuana] away from kids," another man in line noted the shop's ironic location, in light of I-502's restrictions, next to the headquarters of Seattle Public Schools just up the street.
Maria, an employee of Leafly – an online marijuana dispensary and strain review site, commented that "it's going to be really interesting to see how the new recreational stores will affect the economy of each neighborhood, how it's going to change strip malls [and] neighborhoods." She noted that while some pot shops will benefit a neighborhood, others might not be so welcome.
Chris Rodriguez, the manager of the Subway next door, however was very welcoming of Cannabis City, saying, "I think anytime a non-competitor comes in and will draw more people, it's a plus. If it were a restaurant, I would not be happy. I know there's a lot of joking like 'oh, they'll have the munchies,' but they can't smoke there, so it's just that it's going to be drawing more people that wouldn't normally come here." He also added that he has heard of no complaints from surrounding businesses, adding "It's pot… Seattle is not Amsterdam; it's not like they're hitting up with needles and heroin."
Some have hinted that SoDo will become Seattle's Green District. However, Rodriguez doesn't believe such change will occur, arguing, "I think there's a limit, it's not like a Starbucks where they can put one on every corner and still survive. I think it's kind of a limited market. At least now because there's such a stigma around it." However, with the zoning restrictions put into place by I-502 which prohibits marijuana businesses from being located within 1,000 feet of places where minors frequent such as elementary and secondary schools, playgrounds, recreation centers, child care centers and public parks as well as the new zoning restrictions passed by the Seattle City Council prohibiting marijuana businesses in residential areas, commercial zones, and historical districts, industrial areas like SoDo are one of the few neighborhoods left where pot shops can actually operate.
James Lathrop, the owner of Cannabis City, said he chose SoDo because "the zoning restrictions for the 502 law are very broad, and there are many other cities where you could not even have a shop. SoDo was wide open for real estate [where you] could have a shop by the zoning restrictions, so I started just calling all 'for-lease' signs around here. It took me actually about six months of calling different spaces to find a location that was available in the right zoning and with an agreeable landlord."
While the long term implications of the presence of Cannabis City remain to be seen, for the moment the overall mood today surrounding its opening is one of excitement and welcome. In the meantime, other Seattle neighborhoods are joining in on the fun as Leafly is celebrating by sponsoring food trucks throughout the city handing out free lunch.
· All Pot Shop coverage [Curbed Seattle]
Written by Alyssa Campbell