There's a Pizza Pipeline location next door to Green Star Cannabis. Pulling into this North Division strip mall parking lot, I think the pairing of the businesses couldn't have been planned better. It's a one-stop shop here. I'm a journalist who's never entered a pot shop before. I've never as much as puffed a joint or munched on a weed-laced brownie. That's why my editor sent me out to a cannabis store; I'm here to offer a newbie's perspective.
Of all the recreational marijuana shops in town, I chose Green Star (1403 N. Division) because they have a reputation for hands-on service. Each customer gets his or her own budtender, I was told, and they show you around the store. For patrons already in the know this might be annoying; for me, it was perfect.
Swinging open the glass front door, a blast of warm, slightly weed-tinged air greets me, as does budtender Erik Ellstad. He wants to see my I.D., but unlike some club bouncers, he's not gruff in the asking. I tell him I'm here for the first time, and that I'm pretty much hopeless. He doesn't laugh me out of the store; he says he gets that a lot, especially folks from Montana and Idaho who come to Spokane for a weekend. He says people who haven't smoked since the 1970s, when product was far less potent, are in my same boat — everything is new.
The bright and open business is bustling tonight. People of all ages (21 and over) and demographics are represented. It feels so normal, yet stores like this weren't open in this state until the summer of 2014.
Asking Ellstad if the job is stressful, he says it's nothing compared to other kinds of retail. Here, he tries every type of cannabis the shop offers (between 20 and 30 strains), as encouraged by owner Sam Calvert, who demands that his employees be as knowledgeable as possible.
As we walk around the various glass display cases, Ellstad shows off the edibles (he highly recommends the brownie bites for my first experience), the hard candy and fizzy soda. There are tinctures and items to vape. Getting to the cannabis leaves, I get to put my nose to the test. The chocolate chunk kind smells like its namesake, but the watermelon doesn't. The difference between sativa and indica highs is also explained in detail. It's recommended that I start out with a low dose. Never once am I belittled for not knowing anything.
While I'm only window shopping today, I leave with a whole new sense of appreciation for the services these shops offer. Next time I darken the door, I'll know where to start. ♦