We asked James Lathrop, founder and owner of Cannabis City, Seattle’s first pot shop, about his business. Here is what he had to say:
Q: When did you open your retail store?
A: I founded Cannabis City in November 2014 and put in an application for a Seattle License (which was awarded by lottery). The interesting thing is, that back then, the LCB required you to already have a location before putting in an application, and there was certainly no guarantee that a license would be awarded.
After the lottery, I was able to calculate the odds of winning. There were 440 applications for the initially 21 Seattle positions; giving a Seattle Lottery winner about 5 percent chance of winning. As soon as I received notice in May 2015 that I was awarded a Seattle license I tore into my buildout spending every day, 12 hours or more, in build out and re-model with the intention to be the first store opening in the city, or even in the state.
I was the first retailer to call for final inspection on June 24, 2015, and fully expected to be able to open my doors on July 1, 2015. However, my agent advised me that since I was the only retailer who had passed inspection at that point, and that there were about four more expected to have inspection in the next week, they would hold my license back until more stores were ready.
This was a bit upsetting, after all the work I had done.
Nonetheless, they gave me my license on July 7 (my birthday!) and we were the first store in Seattle to legally sell weed to the public since the beginning of prohibition in 1937. It was pretty big news, and the first 1 gram purchase is in the possession of the MOHAI museum of Seattle.
Deb Greene, a 67-year-old marathon-running grandma from Ballard positioned herself outside my door for 23 hours to make that very first purchase.
Q: Why were you interested in being in cannabis retailing?
A: I’m a doctor of Nursing Practice (Clinical Nurse Practitioner, Family Practice) with a background in Critical Care and Emergency and Urgent Care. After 20 years in ER and ICU environments I saw a lot of organ damage from alcohol and many other drugs, to include prescription medications. Yet, I never saw a lethal overdose or someone in multiple organ failure from marijuana consumption.
So under the medical marijuana law, way back in 2010, I opened a medical marijuana consultation clinic called the “Ahh” clinic (www.AdvancedHolisticHealth.org). For five years I helped patients in chronic pain and with other conditions use medicinal cannabis for their issues. I witnessed them reducing their narcotic needs, I saw alcoholic patients regain their health by using cannabis instead of alcohol, I was frequently amazed by the overall health of my patients — they didn’t have poor skin conditions like tobacco smokers, they didn’t have excessive weight gain and pre-organ failure liver enzymes like heavy alcohol users, and they didn’t have the addiction and drug seeking behaviors of the narcotic dependent patients.
So, through the successes of my patients, I became a “believer” in medicinal marijuana. When the 502 (recreational law) passed I decided I wanted to open a cannabis – herbal pharmacopeia: A store with cannabis products, but also other herbal therapies such as garlic, turmeric, herbal teas, etc. Unfortunately the way the law was crafted, it is illegal for me to sell anything other than cannabis and paraphernalia (Cannabis City cannot sell garlic, turmeric, or even a T-Shirt).
Q: What makes your shop different from all the others?
A: I like to associate Cannabis City with the first Starbucks: Cannabis City was the first store to open to the public for legal cannabis, and it truly is a bit of local history. Additionally, we have re-modeled the store with a special propriatorey siding invented by my architect with a product called dicrotic film. In short, the building changes color from bright yellow-green to a deep blue-purple, depending upon the angle you view it. Cannabis City is itself a work of art. And now, we have built a legal smoking deck next to Cannabis City — there is an area on private property adjacent to our shop which is 25 feet from all adjacent doors and windows. So, we now have developed Seattle’s very first public legal smoking area on private property. Finally, we are opening up a new shop called Seattle Gear (www.SeattleGear.com) which will have Cannabis City paraphernalia and Seattle – Weed tourist items. We are expecting to open the store by the time this article comes out.
Q: How many employees do you have and how are they trained to be budtenders?
A: We have 15 employees and they are all given a couple of weeks of one-on-one customer service training with our customer service lead, Racheal.
Q: Give readers an idea of the kinds of products you sell?
A: We have some of the finest hand-picked weed products available in the state, on display by sativa, hybrid, and indica. Furthermore we have a very complete selection of waxes, oils, and shatter products, as well as over 100 varieties of joints ranging from $3 on up. We carry only the tastiest of cookies, candies, and sodas and as an additional focus, because of my medical background, we provide a wide range of CBD products from flower, oil, capsules, tropicals, and tinctures. Cannabis City is truly a complete weed product store with highly educated bud-tenders and the most competitive prices in the city.
Q: Do you help those who have a medical cannabis card?
A: We are a medically endorsed cannabis store, so we can provide the sales tax discount to those registered with the state. However, we also recognize that many patients do not wish to register with the state, so just by bringing in your authorization, we will give all patients 10 percent discount. Furthermore we are working with a couple of medical clinical and medical consultants to taylor particular cannabis products to unique patient’s needs.
Q: What has surprised you the most about being in this business?
A: That there continues to be a stigma against cannabis use; it really does amaze me. In comparison to alcohol (which is almost required in social situations) cannabis is an amazing and healthy choice, but still retains a stigma of “bad” — I just don’t get it.
Q: What do you see the future being for your business?
A: Normalization. It will happen, but when, I don’t know.
Cannabis City is located at 2733 Fourth Ave. S., Seattle. Hours: 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day. Phone: 206-420-4206, website: www.CannabisCity.us.