Since Initiative 502, which decriminalizes recreational marijuana, was voted into law in November 2012, industry insiders have witnessed many changes to both the quality and quantity of marijuana.
John Sanders has been a budtender since the day Sea Change Cannabis in Discovery Bay opened for business in 2014. The pot shop was the first on the North Olympic Peninsula to open after winning a state lottery.
Sanders recalled a massive shortage of products in the beginning.
“The supply was really low, really minimal,” he said. “What was available from the time we opened to the time we are now - the variety of products is incredible. It is by far better.”
Sanders said that is because standards have increased and new products such as edibles, topicals, tinctures and vapable marijuana have become more prevalent.
But that change has come at a price. Many of the cottage-industry marijuana producers who were around at the beginning have been replaced by larger commercial grows, Sanders said.
“We have seen more of the larger corporation farms.”
And, there is more competition these days, with marijuana shops open for business across Jefferson County, Sanders said.
“In the beginning we were the only store on the peninsula, so obviously everybody was coming to this store. In time, each town opened up their own stores.”
More shops mean more variety for the customer, and slightly diminished sales for well established shops such as Sea Change Cannabis, Sanders said.
“It is like there is only one pie and that pie keeps getting divided up more and more.”
Sanders said that while individual shops may feel the squeeze of increased competition, sales appear to be up overall across the state.
To compete, stores must offer sales and promotions. But, they must not be in a race for the bottom, Sanders said. “I think that is more of a standard than anything, not to cave into price, but to maintain your sense of quality.”
The types of customers that come into the shop is something that has not changed much from the beginning, Sanders said. There are two groups, local regulars and Olympic National Park visitors passing through on SR 101 from across the country and world, he said.
“They always remember this shop and are pretty loyal, so that is humbling.”
Making a pit stop
On their way to Sequim last week to visit family, Dante and his wife Courtney made a quick pit stop at Cannaboose in Discovery Bay to pick up a few marijuana products.
“It is very eccentric,” Dante said. “We have been here a few times. You can’t really say you buy weed out of a train all the time.”
The Leader granted the couple’s request not to include their last name in consideration of their concern that the legality of marijuana consumption is still unclear in federal law.
Because they were on a road trip, Dante was on the market for a vaping battery and THC solution. He said he prefers smoking traditional dry flower, but that a vaporizer is more portable.
“But right now being on a long drive, I think vaping is a lot more discreet.”
Using a vaporizer is also less messy than preparing traditional marjuana to be smoked in a joint or pipe, Dante said.
“We have a new car and don’t want to roll a bunch of weed all over the seats.”
[Editor’s note: The Leader does not endorse or advise using marijuanna in a motor vehicle, and reminds readers that impaired driving is both illegal and dangerous.]
Dante smokes marijuana both recreationally and medicinally. He rolled both of his sleeves up to show large scars on both of his shoulders left behind after major surgeries sustained in snowboarding and skiing accidents.
He said he was prescribed opioids for pain after the surgeries. He took the pills for a few days, but decided he didn’t want to pursue that course of treatment. His doctors told him he would at least have to take ibuprofen every day for pain management. He didn’t like that option either.
Instead, Dante uses marijuana.
“I am not into taking huge dabs,” he said. “I just want to take a little hit off of something and call it good.”
The goal is to smoke just enough to take the edge off, while not getting so high he can’t concentrate.
Dante and Courtney were met by Anne Gutierrez, Cannaboose general manager, who has been working at the store since it opened in September 2016.
Gutierrez said she enjoys interacting with the repeat tourists who come in looking to compliment their journey with an “experience.”
“They come in and I get hugs.”
Most customers have questions about the products available, and Gutierrez acts as a guide.
“I like it because they always answer all the questions you have and a lot of the times there is so much to learn about weed,” Courtney said. “There is always someone teaching you something new.”
Gutierrez has noted an increase in demand for vaping products, topicals and edibles. She has also noted an uptick in customers from an older demographic.
“It gets busier and busier,” she said. “They are coming out of the woodwork.”
It isn’t just seasoned users who come to the store, but newbies with no marijuana tolerance to speak of, Gutierrez said. For those customers, it is important to take it “low and slow,” she said. For such folks, Gutierrez suggests marijuana in its traditional form.
For edibles, Gutierrez urges caution.
“It is a completely different high, lasts longer, is more intense and takes longer to kick in. it does affect everyone differently too,” she said.
Sanders is also careful to help lead new users in a gentle direction.
“We don’t want people to have an experience where they don’t want to come back. Let’s take it on a lower percentage of THC and determine what kind of mindset they want to have. That extends for not only the flower, but the vape cartridges and the edibles.”
Sanders said he starts by asking questions.
“What they are looking for? You want an up or a down? Would you like to be energized or relaxed, or something right in the middle?”
From there, he can gauge which strain would be best for each person.
While a younger crowd of millenials and Gen Xers peruse the weed stores, Baby Boomers remain the largest customer demographic, Sanders said.
“There have been a lot of people that have been waiting a long time for it to be legal, and they make up the majority of our customers and they always have, and very rightly so. They deserve to come in and finally have their day. We are happy to serve them and glad to see that has happened.”