We crept into pot shops for the first time as if the feds—or our moms—could at any moment come crashing through the ceiling and shut this whole thing down. Was this real life? Are drugs really allowed on the walls like that? What is a Volcano vaporizer? We employed language gleaned from Google or a more experienced friend to describe some vague and contradictory idea of how we wanted to feel. We said the word mild a lot because it better at least be that.
In the five years since Initiative 502 passed, legalizing recreational cannabis in the state, the once-marginalized industry has been gifted a new population of unschooled, curious people just trying to experiment a little without embarrassing themselves in public or having a meltdown in private.
In a city full of hurried baristas and bespoke bike tinkerers, the Seattle budtender is a bottomless well of patience and approachability; part Sherpa, part therapist, part apothecary, and just generally pretty chill. There is a responsibility, after all. With a century of stigma to upend, and a statewide experiment to prove right, no pot purveyor can afford to be careless.
During my first nervous visit to a pot shop, the budtender asked why I chose that day for my inaugural visit. Trouble winding down at the end of the night, I said. Then a bag of indica appeared. Weeks later, as I searched for something more levelheaded (this is where I learned the term “couch lock,” aka extremely stoned), a different person at a shop across town steered me to a hybrid. Later still, I found a hybrid with some CBD thrown in. By that time, I knew what all these terms meant.
That’s not to suggest the industry is without its complications—a rocky transition for medical dispensaries, legitimate lingering concerns about racial inequity. But it is undeniably exciting to see the sea change happening. You feel it when you walk into a pot shop that looks like a Verizon retailer and leave with a bag of gummy bears that are going to really light up a friend’s birthday party.
Just saying, it’s a great time to be curious.