In a cute little home right off Highway 2 in Spokane, Washington is 4:20 Friendly, a cannabis dispensary co-founded and operated by wives Carol Ehrhart and Alissa Taylor. The birth of the company came about after Washington state passed Initiative 502, which legalized both cannabis and same-sex marriage. This gave Ehrhart the brilliant idea to run the numbers and figure out whether or not running a dispensary together was in their cards.
“You know what,” said Ehrhart at the time. “We could actually pull this off.”
How 4:20 Got Its Start
With the way stores were opening in the Washington, state officials ran a lottery in order to see who would be willing and able to operate cannabis dispensaries. To be entered in the lottery, aspiring businesses had to fill out a series of complex forms.
“Being an accountant, I knew how to fill out the forms, so we got into the lottery,” says Ehrhart..
Of the eight names called for Spokane, 4:20 was the fifth, and the 20th for the state overall.
The cannabis industry is pioneer-driven, and 4:20 Friendly has been open since 2014, meaning they’ve seen a number of changes to the way cannabis is handled. In the beginning, dispensaries had to drive their tax payments to Olympia, that state capital of Washington. They also had to stand in line to get money orders to pay payroll taxes and still got penalized for doing so because they weren’t able to do the process electronically. Washington State even publicly published business earnings and the amount of taxes they owed.
“This stuff is so crazy thinking about it,” says Ehrhart, reflecting on her company’s early years..”For the first couple years, I mean, we had targets on our backs.”
She also mentions how because people were needing to transport large amounts of cash across the state, they would rent cars in order to safely travel across the state and not attract any prying eyes who thought about robbing them.
The state frequently changed the rules for cannabis during this time too, and Carol and Alissa needed to adapt to them fast in order to retain a status of legitimacy. Rules posted on Friday wouldn’t be published online until 5 p.m. Because of how late they got posted, no one would be in until Monday to answer any questions. Carol would then call up the other stores in town to see how they interpret the new rulings because of how they were often worded.
4:20 Friendly Dispensary and Pride
As for pride month, 4:20 Friendly is wanting to lead by example when it comes to treating customers right.
“One of the first things [my employees] hear is that ‘every walk of life comes into our store and every walk of life is treated with respect’” says Ehrhart.
She goes on to say that hatred comes from a lack of education and that being exposed to other communities leads to less hatred. She also reiterates that minority business owners should be out and proud that they’re successful.
“Too many kids are growing up these days, especially in the minority classes, that feel that there’s no way up,” Ehrhart says. “I think that it’s important to be vocal and not hide who you are to show those kids that there is a path to success if they choose to pursue it.”