I’m suddenly channeling Billy Mays….
HI, SHERAE O’SHAUGHNESSY HERE TO TELL YOU ABOUT A FABULOUS SEATTLE BASED
CANNABIS ENTREPRENEUR! “CANNABIS CITY,” BASED IN THE SODO DISTRICT OF THE CITY, WAS THE FIRST CANNABIS RETAILER IN SEATTLE TO OPEN ITS DOORS IN 2014 TO HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE LOOKING TO BUY GOODS LIKE CONCENTRATES, EDIBLES, PRE-ROLLS, FLOWERS AND SO MUCH MORE! WOW!
Geez, it’s exhausting trying to maintain an infomercial level of excitement. No wonder that animated gentleman had a heart attack. Anyway, this month in addition to talking with the Seattle based BOND girls I was invited to tour the facility and speak with James Lathrop, DNP ARNP and CEO of Cannabis City, about the trials and tribulations of getting this groundbreaking establishment up and running. Even in a state where bud is legal it is still considered by some to be taboo. Staying afloat is no easy feat.
In making the rounds distributing the Emerald Magazine, meeting with the brains behind cannabis products and getting a general feel for the legalized market, I’ve encountered all kinds of characters and personnel policies. A few of the dispensaries employ large, rather intimidating gentlemen you might expect to encounter with an earpiece and a clipboard outside of a sweaty night club. That’s right, these joints (more puns!) have bouncers. Cannabis City is no exception. Before you get too cozy, you’d better be able to produce identification proving you are over the age of 21. Washington and Colorado were the first to legalize the sale of medical cannabis nationwide, but you won’t need a referral or a 215 card, just a birth year that falls before 1995.
We were greeted by a pleasant, no nonsense employee who carded us before ushering us upstairs to meet with Mr. Lathrop. While we waited for his arrival, we got to see some behind-the-scenes action where a handful of employees counted neatly packaged, very attractive buds and placed them into their respective bins. Nothing shady. No boarded up windows. Just folks in company T-shirts puttin’ away weed. It was neat.
Lathrop joined us a short while later. An incredibly endearing, friendly man with impish blue eyes and a charming demeanor. James has an impressive resume that includes operating bars and restaurants, commercial rental properties and organizing music festivals. In addition to these fine pursuits, he completed his undergraduate and graduate studies at the University of Washington and has been a certified nurse practitioner since 1997, specializing in combining emergency medical care with holistic and herbal remedies. James is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to medical cannabis and boasts a license from the Drug Enforcement Administration. He told us his tale of pioneering the first shop to sell the medicinal miracle plant to the public.
Initiative 502 passed in 2012 and ‘legalizes, taxes, and regulates cannabis for adults age 21 and older.’ However, getting ahold of one of only twenty-one retail licenses from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis board, overcoming taxation issues, dodging zoning laws and keeping products stocked were just a few of the speed bumps Lathrop faced on the road to Cannabis City.
Everyone hates paying taxes. James explained that in order to meet all state requirements and keep the lights on, he must also work with a licensed producer (i.e. grower) and processor. The growers must sell products to a processor and see the product taxed twenty-five percent. The processor who then dries, packages and barcodes the product, will see it taxed another twenty-five percent. This is getting pricey! Finally, the product is sold to Cannabis City, taxed another twenty-five percent in addition to the Washington State sales tax of 9.6 percent. All these numbers are killing my buzz. And we aren’t done yet! Stores are also held accountable federally.
In 2015 growers and processors were relieved of their federal tax obligations, while retailers were hit with a soaring thirty-seven percent federal tax in addition to that super fun 9.6 point of sale tax. Way to make this as difficult as possible, you dirty suits!
Despite the many hurdles James remains optimistic and absolutely in love with his growing business. On July 8, 2015, Cannabis City opened its doors to hundreds of customers and a media frenzy. They ran out of product on day one, but kept the doors open for the curious to set foot inside this historical place of healing.
My favorite opening day account is one of Deb Green, a local sixty-five year old, marathon-running grandmother who camped out like she was in line to get Beyonce tickets for a whole day before the grand opening. “She brought a hat, a book and a chair,” James reminisces with a twinkle in his eye.
Because of all the excitement surrounding the possibility of legalized cannabis “The City” drew global media attention earning the name, “The Pot Shop Heard Around the World.” James has high hopes of acquiring all the needed credentials to open a total of three stores which is the Washington State maximum. Seattle has flowered into a booming metropolis that exports the finest seafood, coffee — and with the help of qualified humans like James — medicinal cannabis.