Bad News for Seattle's Pot Business Is Actually Very Good News for Washington's Future

For pot smokers in Seattle, it's the best of times and it's the worst of times.

The bad news: When Washington became the second state to allow legal sales of recreational marijuana last week, Seattle only had a single store, Cannabis City, open for business. It ran out of weed in three days.

Cannabis City opened its doors for the first time on Tuesday with 4.5 kg of marijuana ready to be purchased. By the end of Thursday, it had all been bought. It's even more impressive when you realize that customers were only allowed to buy a maximum of 6 grams each, which means the store made at least 750 individual sales.


But ... the good news: People in Washington really want weed. Washington's first retail weed store quickly and easily broke Colorado's marijuana sales record. Though nay-sayers argued that demand wasn't sustainable at the time, the state's doing just fine (in more ways than one.) 

But why wasn't Cannabis City anywhere near stocked enough? The answer lies in Washington's marijuana restrictions. Licensed marijuana growers have to be in state, and there simply hasn't been enough time for farmers in the Evergreen State to grow a full crop.

Seattle wasn't the only city whose store was a (limited) success. Top Shelf in Bellingham, which made the state's first ever legal sale, set a new record with first-day sales of more than $30,000 thanks to serving more than 1,200 customers.

A work in progress: It may be a surprise given how well stores did with their limited product, but not everyone is totally sold on the future of recreational marijuana in Washington. Retailers like Cannabis City have competition, both from medical marijuana (which is cheaper and often relatively easy to obtain) and old fashioned illegal marijuana (which is just cheaper).

In addition to the in-state growing restriction, Washington applies a 25% sales tax on recreational weed, making it pretty pricey when compared to those other options. Some worry that this past week's sales were thanks in part to the novelty factor of going to the store to buy weed, a novelty folks like Mike Boyer certainly understand.


That being said, it's not like there isn't a relatively successful precedent. Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational marijuana, is expecting more than $1 billion in sales over the next fiscal year, which would bring in $134 million in taxes and fees for the state.

That's good news for Washington and its stores. The good news for Seattleites? Cannabis City expects to open again on July 21.

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Matt Connolly

Matt has written for Mother Jones, the Washington Examiner and Chicago Public Radio among many others. He's a resident of Washington, D.C., but much like Bruce Springsteen and pork roll he is a product of New Jersey.

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