As much as my chest swelled with pride when Al-Jazeera — Al-Ja-frickin-zeera! — covered the first day of legal recreational marijuana sales in Washington state from the vantage point of my ancestral homeland of North Country Homes Boulevard, the story troubled me.
Not because the scene, of a strip mall in our northern ‘burbs, described beautifully by my former Inlander colleague Leah Sottile, was so exactly what you’d expect that it verged on self-parody.
What troubled me was the location itself, and what the location says about the way our city council and other deciders in Spokane have chosen to stunt the full bloom of possibilities, including the massive economic upside of legal, recreational marijuana.
Legal weed could transform our neighborhoods economically, and we’re forcing it to the hinterlands.
I know the strip mall in question well. It’s exactly at the Y where Division splits to become Highway 2 and Highway 395 — a convergence of suburbs, and the very nexus of everything we as a city are trying to move away from. Very little of cultural interest happens for a half-mile in any direction. There’s a Ford dealership, a Rite-Aid, a handful of national fast-food restaurants, and many, many lanes of high-speed traffic.
That’s not just the hauteur of a city slicker talking. My parents live northwest of the Y, near Pattison’s. My grandpa lives southwest a pace, down Country Homes. I have coworkers and friends who live on Five Mile, Wandermere and points beyond. No one drives to the Y unless they’re trying to get somewhere else very, very quickly.
It’s a tangle of arterials, not a hub of culture. And yet it will soon host not one, but two marijuana stores. Satori — just across Division — will open soon.
Meanwhile, the entire South Hill has not a single legal weed store. Nor does Kendall Yards. The only licensed store anywhere west of Division or south of the freeway is basically in Airway Heights.
Part of this far-flinging is state-mandated. The law itself requires a 1,000-foot-buffer zone from schools, parks, libraries, child-care facilities and a bunch of other places, which cuts down on options.
But that wouldn’t have stopped a pot shop near 14th and Grand, one the city’s much-touted CC1 “centers,” the pedestrian-focused commercial zones that Spokane’s master plan decrees shall be the nodes around which to build our next several decades of culture and commerce! CC1s are those special little places inside our hippest neighborhoods where we want people to put art galleries and restaurants, spas and hard cideries. Garland is a CC1, so are South Perry and the International District.
CC1s are the ideal place for something progressive yet commercial like one of America’s few legal pot shops to go. That is, if we viewed pot as a cultural experience like craft beer and local wine.
But the city council has decided that, no, pot is more like strip clubs and porn than it’s like alcohol and ramen burgers. In September of 2013, acting on the hand-wringing of concerned citizens in the Garland neighborhood, the council voted to prohibit marijuana stores, processors and grow operations from CC1 zoned areas. Take a moment and think about the wisdom of the city council letting “a small group of Garland residents and business owners” decide our entire city’s policy on marijuana. Does it make sense to you? It doesn’t to me.
When I cried out to Facebook about the injustice of zero weed stores on the South Hill, Councilman Mike Allen responded: “There is a spot up on Regal that qualified as a potential location. We only had one state liquor on the Hill.”
He’s right about that liquor store thing. But that only points out how the council’s weed policy is actually more restrictive than the old liquor laws. The one store Allen speaks of was at 29th and Grand, next door to what’s now Manito Tap House. Grand and 29th is a CC1, though, so weed is prohibited.
Right now, the only approved location even close to one of our vibrant, or even potentially vibrant, tourist-attracting centers is a location near East Sprague on Ralph Street. But even that is far removed from the International District, closer to Axel’s Pawn Shop than Sonnenberg’s Deli.
Here’s the economic reality: illicit marijuana use is the second-biggest illegal drug market in America, bringing in an estimated $100 billion dollars (in 2010 dollars) every year since 2000. That’s a huge pile of black market money, and guess what? We’re one of only a handful of interesting places in America where weed is now legal. Think of how that money might fit into the mix of an area like Perry, or the section of Sprague we’re so keen to revitalize with all those directed development dollars! People buy some weed, get high “in private” (read: behind the building they bought it in) as the law decrees, and then stick around to sample liberally the neighborhood’s restaurants and whatever else catches their attention.
And think of the tourism! America’s a big, populous place. That’s a captive audience of stoners I’m sure would be eager — stoked, even — to get high and ruminate on just how Near Nature, Near Perfect we are. Quick aside: Visit Spokane, love you guys, but if you aren’t planning a “Weed in Spokane, Washington” tourism campaign, someone needs to lose their job.
But first, we’ve gotta get smarter about what legal pot is and how it can fit into the vibrancy we’re trying to create in this increasingly interesting city. We need to start treating marijuana as a consumable for connoisseurs, not as an obsession for degenerates.
And what a coincidence! We are now — right this minute! — actively incubating, to sometimes stunning effect, connoisseur markets in food, beer and wine, with interesting offshoots like hard cider, liquor at Dry Fly and on-tap Kombucha in Coeur d’Alene. We used to be 10 years behind the times. With on-tap Kombucha, we’ve cut that gap to like 4 years, tops. That deserves a round of applause!
So why, then, do we continue to be so behind-the-times about weed? And why are we relegating a 100-million-dollar connoisseur culture to the hinterlands of our community?
Spokane is the best it’s been in my lifetime, and I’m incredibly excited for the future, but the kombucha-on-tap thing is an apt touchstone: We’re still mostly catching up in the culture game.
We have an opportunity with weed to lead the national conversation, rather than follow it.
Such opportunities are rare, and we should seize it. ♦
Luke Baumgarten, a creative strategist at Seven2 and former culture editor of the Inlander, is a co-founder of Terrain, which organized Bazaar on June 21 in downtown Spokane.
Asking for increased community support for mental health and domestic violence services, Spokane law enforcement leaders acknowledged today that authorities had two recent contacts with the suspect in Tuesday’s murder-suicide at the Rockwood Cancer Treatment Center — at one point seizing his firearm and later returning it to him the day before the shooting.
Officials identified the shooting suspect as 37-year-old Christopher Henderson, who they believe fatally shot his wife, Sheena Henderson, 30, at the treatment center where she worked, before turning the gun on himself.
Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub says officers previously detained Christopher Henderson on May 16 after his wife reported he had made suicidal threats and armed himself with a gun. Officers found him sitting in a van with the weapon, but were able to safely transport him to the hospital for a mental health check.
Straub says the man spent about three hours undergoing an evaluation and treatment before being released from Sacred Heart Medical Center. His firearm, however, was taken and checked into a police property facility. Straub says the Department of Health and Social Services later filed paperwork to release the weapon back to Henderson.
“That firearm was released to Mr. Henderson on July 7, 2014, after, and I emphasize after, all records checks were completed and a waiver releasing the firearm was received from the Department of Health and Social Services,” Straub says. “It should be noted that that release [paperwork] … had been received by the department on June 19, 2014, approximately a little shy of a month before the tragic events that transpired.”
Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, who appeared in a joint news conference with Straub and mental health professionals, says county deputies also spoke with Christopher Henderson on July 7, just hours before his gun was returned to him and just a day before the murder-suicide at the Rockwood treatment center.
Knezovich says deputies responded after a coworker reported Christopher Henderson had made suicidal statements to the effect of “not having much to live for” if his wife left him. Three deputies responded and questioned Henderson on his statements and state of mind.
“Three deputies went out, they interviewed Mr. Henderson,” Knezovich says. “He stated that, ‘No, I am not suicidal. I do not want to harm myself.’ … He stressed that he had the will to live for his children.”
Knezovich says deputies were aware of the previous contact with Spokane Police, but may not have known about the status of the seized firearm. He says Henderson gave no indication he posed a danger to himself or others, which left deputies no reason to detain him.
“There’s no way they could have a crystal ball to know,” the sheriff says.
Investigators report Christopher Henderson entered the cancer center at about 9:30 am the next day, Tuesday, July 8, on the Deaconess Medical Center campus. He shot his wife multiple times and then shot himself in the head. No other injuries were reported.
Both Straub and Knezovich called for increased community support for mental health and domestic violence prevention services. Knezovich called out the state government for limiting funding for mental health resources, suggesting they had abandoned the challenge to underfunded local networks. Straub argues Spokane has to stop talking and start acting on these issues.
“This is not about blaming a piece of the system that worked or didn’t work or broke or didn’t break,” he says, “this is a call for action in this community.”
Welcome back to Weed Wednesday, your weekly dose of pot news. Wondering what this is about? Click. Looking for our previous marijuana coverage? Click. Got a question or tip? Email me at email@example.com.
In case you've been off the grid, legal pot sales started in Washington yesterday and, despite shortages and high prices, it was basically one big party. See scenes from Spokane's first store here, the westside here and tiny Prosser, Wash. here. (Spokane's only open store, Spokane Green Leaf, is at 9107 N. Country Homes Blvd and will be open again Saturday at 10 am. The two others that have been licensed and are expected to open soon are Satori at 9301 N. Division St and Green Star Cannabis at 1403 N. Division St.)
The moment was bittersweet, it appears, for the man who was first in line in Spokane and featured by all the local media. Mike Boyer tells the Spokesman he's been fired from two of his three part-time jobs and may lose another because he bought and smoked legal recreational marijuana yesterday. Still, he says, "I regret nothing." He's posted on Craigslist looking for a new job.
Even with a few stores open, plenty of challenges remain for the industry. Supplies are scarce and prices are high ($50 for two grams in Spokane Tuesday; for reference, an eighth is about 3.5 grams), so more growers will have to come online before supplies can be cheap enough to actually threaten the black market. Before breathlessly pronouncing the whole thing a failure, it's worth remembering that no one expects legal weed to wipe out the black market overnight, not even the initiative's supporters. Still, just how much of the black market remains is an ongoing concern. (The Stranger took on the supply question and other issues in this indictment of the Liquor Control Board's handling of this whole thing.)
I talked to Liquor Board member Chris Marr yesterday about the backlog of applications and disappointment over supply on opening day. (Much has been made about there only being one store in Seattle.) Marr points to the gamble retail applicants were taking as a potential reason more of them weren't ready for Tuesday. Because of the state's lottery, he says the board saw applicants — even in a weed hub like Seattle — who "didn't invest resources" in being ready for licensing because they thought their chances at winning the lottery were so slim. Marr says he's not sure "any amount of staffing" could have allowed the board to deal with the hundreds of applications it received, but acknowledged that the relatively low number of growers who've been licensed has created a sellers' market. He thinks that'll improve in coming months.
"We tried hard not to play to the expectations of regular users who felt our overriding goal availability and accessibility. Public safety had to be our number one goal," Marr says. "There's no doubt some people will be disappointed. To that, I say they'll just have to live with the disappointment."
President Obama was in Denver this week and was, naturally, offered some weed. He passed. He also shook hands with a guy in a horse mask. The Cannabist has the roundup you're looking for.
Speaking of The Cannabist, CBS profiled two of its pot critics. It's an interesting look at the job, even though the anchors devolve into in a giggle fit at the end.
Calling existing water quality protections outdated and inadequate, Gov. Jay Inslee today announced stronger proposed clean water standards with hopes of raising safe fish consumption levels from the currently recommended one serving a month to closer to one serving a day.
Inslee says additional protections would allow the state to raise the current consumption standard from 6.5 grams a day to 175 grams a day, without any significantly increased cancer risk from pollutants in regional waterways.
"Many people have seen the mandate to update our water quality standards as a choice between protecting human health or protecting the economy,” Inslee says in a statement. “I reject that choice because both values are essential to our future.”
The Governor’s Office stated the current standards go back to 1992 when most major water pollution stemmed from large discharge pipes. New standards need to address chemical runoff or more nuanced toxin sources.
The Inlander wrote last year about the impact of fish consumption on American Indian communities, which traditionally rely more heavily on fish as part of their diet. Much of the public debate has resulted from coverage by InvestigateWest.
Washington-based businesses, including Boeing, have opposed changes to the fish consumption rate, arguing against increase environmental regulation.
Inslee has asked the Department of Ecology to develop draft regulations by Sept. 30 with hopes to introduce a bill on the issue next year.
“Washingtonians’ actual risk to cancer and other harmful effects will be reduced by this proposal,” Inslee says. “We are making our waters cleaner and safer.”
UPDATE: Boeing issued a statement this afternoon via Tim Keating, senior vice president of Government Operations, emphasizing the company has a long history of supporting environmental protections that ensure human health and environmental welfare.
“However, we are concerned that the standards put forth by the governor today could result in little to no improvement to water quality, and be a substantial detriment to Washington jobs and economic health," Keating says. "We will review the governor’s proposal in detail, including the updated fish consumption rate, risk level and legislative proposals. We anticipate commenting on all proposals through the public comment process.”
The very first pot sales in Spokane began yesterday. We got some awesome photos. (Inlander)
Two people were killed in murder-suicide at Rockwood Cancer Treatment Center yesterday. (KHQ)
One woman, who allegedly had a knife, is dead after an officer-involved shooting right outside the Bonner General Hospital in Sandpoint. (KXLY)
It’s wildfire season at our back doorstep once again as two fires rage across Central Washington. (S-R)
SCRAPS has taken in 234 animals in one week and they need a home now. (KHQ)
Post Falls police continue to investigate a double homicide that occurred yesterday, a suspect has been named. (CdAP)
Stunned Brazilians lose their World Cup match 7 to 1, falling to Germany. (NYT)
Israel and Hamas are still going at it. (LAT)
Seahawks’ Marshawn Lynch poses in the buff for ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue. It’s causing quite a stir. (Seattle P-I)
On a hot and noisy North Spokane corridor today, about 200 people formed a line around a drab strip mall — home to a jazzercize center — all ready to be a part of making history.
Washington on Tuesday became the second state with a legal and regulated recreational marijuana market when a small handful of stores opened across the state. The day has been 20 months in the making, since voters approved a ballot initiative in 2012 legalizing the possession of small amounts of recreational marijuana and directing the state's Liquor Control Board to craft regulations for the new industry. The board began licensing growers in March and issued the first retail store licenses Monday, with three going to stores in Spokane. Just one was ready to open today: Spokane Green Leaf near the corner of Division Street and Country Homes Boulevard.
As the line grew and the clock neared 2 pm, the door swung open for Spokane's first legal recreational marijuana sale. Above the cheering came a throaty cry: "Legal weed!" Store employees ushered customers in and out a few at a time, offering two-gram and four-gram packages of bud for $50 and $100 (including tax), respectively. For reference: A store in Bellingham was selling two grams for $26.50, and Seattle's only store to open today was charging about $40 for two-gram packages. According to online sources like Weedmaps, medical marijuana costs between $10 and $15 a gram in Spokane.
But the cost was worth the novelty to those outside Green Leaf today, including a few dedicated customers who camped overnight.
"It's way overpriced," said Alex Rehberg, the second person in line, "but it's worth it to be here on the first day."
Look for your full guide to recreational pot in Washington in this week's Inlander.
For more than a decade, the Tinman Gallery (809 W. Garland Ave.) has been an arts and culture business fixture in the Garland District, as well as to the greater Inland Northwest arts community, showcasing fine art by the region's top artists.
Yet all good things must come to an end, and yesterday Tinman Gallery owner and longtime arts supporter Susan Bradley announced that this month's is the last show and art sale at the gallery before she officially retires at the end of July. The gallery-wide sale, titled "Tinman's Greatest Hits," features artwork Bradley has collected over the past 11 years by the following artists: Harold Balazs, Mel McCuddin, Kay O'Rourke, Ric Gendron, Ken Spiering, Timothy Ely, Virginia Carter, Stan Miller, Marianne Figgins, Charlie Palmer, Ilse Tan, Len Heid, Kathleen Cavender, Scott Kolbo, Melissa Cole, Val Pate, Gay Waldman, Sheila Evans, George Flett, Kevin Red Star and Terrence Guardipee.
Bradley says it wasn't easy to decide to move on from the gallery, but she wants to spend more time with her husband who retired last October, and also plans to focus more on the four arts nonprofits for which she serves as board member: the Spokane Art School, MAC Foundation, Artist Trust and the Garland Business District.
"It's a difficult decision because I really loved helping the artists get their works out there," Bradley says. "I have really appreciated getting to know the artists and the people who came in to buy the art."
This morning marked the first day of the final show and sale, and already half a dozen pieces have been sold. Bradley estimates about 100 or so pieces she's bought for the Tinman's collection are offered for sale — artwork she personally doesn't have room to hold on to. Many of the artists included in the show aren't extensively producing and showing as they once were, so Bradley considers it a "last chance" for collectors to purchase their work.
Along with the artwork, the gallery's inventory of bestselling, art-related and children's books, handmade candles, greeting card and other gift items is on sale for 50 percent off original prices.
As far as the future of the Tinman Gallery space, located adjacent to the Spokane Art School's headquarters, Bradley says she'll announce its future planned use in the coming week.
"Tinman's Greatest Hits" started today, July 8, and continues through July 26. The gallery is open Tues-Fri, from 10 am-6 pm, and Sat, from 10 am-4 pm.
Well, everyone, I’m sorry to say this is the final Food Blotter post I’ll be writing. And I was going to let it fade out quietly, but there’s just too much happening. So here’s a special Tuesday edition with lots that we’ve fallen behind on — and even more to look forward to.
Cork House, a new upscale eclectic restaurant, is now open at the former Barlows location in Liberty Lake. (Barlows moved to a new building in January.) The executive chef is Brian Hutchins, formerly of Clover. Read more about it in last week’s Entree newsletter — and seriously, if you like this kind of food news, it’s a really good idea to just subscribe to the newsletter.
A new bar and music venue in Coeur d’Alene, the Rocker Room, opened in mid-June just in time for the beginning of Coeur d’Alene’s event-filled summer.
Agave Latin Bistro has permanently closed at its downtown location at Sprague and Lincoln, and in its place is coming Burger Lab. It’s owned by an all-star designer-builder-restauranteur team and, like Nudo and Fire Artisan Pizza farther down the block, will be a project of design firm HDG. The former Wojo Works space on that same block is also likely to become a cafe or eatery of some sort.
Love @ First Bite had its final day at the old bakery last Thursday, and will be reopening in a new space farther down Sprague.
Veraci Pizza, the last restaurant of the Kendall Yards restaurants under construction this year, now has its sign up and getting very close to opening.
Tinbender Craft Distillery, located in the back of the former Spokane Public Market building, is getting closer to opening after a big repaving project.
Soulful Soups and Spirits, the downtown soup-by-day, bar-by-night spot, has reopened after a week of renovations.
As we’ve mentioned, Java on Sherman in Coeur d’Alene moved to a new location farther down Sherman earlier this year. Starting in August, look for a quick turnaround on a big renovation at the old space, which will be reopening as a coffee shop of a different style.
Others getting closer to opening are Ruins, the new dinner restaurant from the Stella’s team; Station House Pizza in Hillyard; Black Label Brewing Company and the other businesses at Saranac Commons; Tamarack Public House downtown on Sprague; and 24 Taps, a reincarnation of the Heroes and Legends sports bar in the downtown space that was most recently Sergio’s.
One Tree Hard Cider is now distributing around town — locations where you might find it on tap so far include Jones Radiator, Manito Tap House, Waddell’s and Press.
Big Barn Brewing Company, based at the Bodacious Berries, Fruits and Brews farm on Green Bluff, is also distributing around town now.
No-Li is releasing a new brew in four-packs later this month: Rise & Grind, a dark ale roasted with Gemelli coffee.
A few anniversaries… This Saturday, July 12, Selkirk Abbey is celebrating its second anniversary with music and special beers. Madeleine’s, which is moving to a new home a few blocks east later this year, celebrated seven years at the end of June. And Nu Home Brew celebrated one year on July 1, with an anniversary party in the works for early August.
We recently featured the list of new sidewalk cafes approved this year. In other outdoor drinking news, city leaders in Spokane and Seattle are asking the state Liquor Control to let cities have more control over rules for patio drinking. The specific issue? State law requires a 42-inch fence or barrier enclosing all outdoor drinking spaces, which isn’t possible for some businesses. And Spokane officials are feeling friendlier toward letting people drink in the streets — they’re doing a pilot program allowing beer gardens for some special events and festivals held on city roadways.
FiveThirtyEight, an otherwise respectable and statistically sound news source, is devoting a strange amount of resources to a national burrito bracket. But they put Joel’s Mexican Restaurant in Sandpoint in the running, so that’s exciting.
If you haven’t seen the potato salad Kickstarter campaign that’s making national news, here it is.
This week’s Outdoors Issue inspired our latest entirely unscientific food preference poll: What’s your s’more style — marshmallow carefully toasted or intentionally engulfed in flame?
A reminder, first of all, that if you have intentions to go make s’mores around a rustic campfire somewhere in the Inland Northwest this summer, check for burn bans and fire rules first.
Now, the results: Maybe it’s impatience or maybe we just enjoy setting things on fire, but the majority of comments were in favor of marshmallows purposely set ablaze.
A number of commenters volunteered a preference for the other ingredients, too, with suggestions of Oreos instead of graham crackers and the addition of Nutella. Mr. Goodbar was suggested as a chocolate of choice, but the most frequent recommendation was to use a Reese’s peanut butter cup as the chocolate layer.
On the spectrum of toastiness, some say they go for flames more than once on a single marshmallow. The most specific and intriguing response in the “Both/Depends” category came from Vintage Hill:
Depends on the wine you are having. A nice late harvest Semillon made dry likes the golden brown version with a milk chocolate bar. Same with a Cab. Sauv. but change the chocolate to a darker bar, even for some very tannic CS’s bittersweet is the call. Burn it and you are in Cab Franc country all the way.
Spokane city council open to allowing more local outdoor festivals to have beer gardens. (S-R)
It wasn’t a fake prank — an actual pipe bomb was neutralized at Lakes Middle School yesterday. (KXLY)
Israel launched a major operation against the Islamist militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (WaPo)
As Typhoon Neoguri bears down on Japan’s Okinawa Islands, over a half-million people have been asked to evacuate. (NPR)
J.K. Rowling wrote a brand new Harry Potter short story and you can read it now! (Mirror)
Will it be Germany or Brazil for the W today? (NYT)
Is there room for a fast food franchise next to this place? Maybe a convenience…
Way too expensive. You can get an oz. at the medical dispensaries for $200. Sounds…
"State law requires a 42-inch fence or barrier enclosing all outdoor drinking spaces, which isn’t…
How was it? Quality report?