Last week, I made a stupidly sweeping prediction: By this time next year, due to a confluence of forces pitting Washington’s (relatively) conservative marijuana laws against Oregon’s (relatively) liberal ones, local cannabis connoisseurs will be using cheaper but higher-quality weed from across the Columbia River.
Before those words had even gotten past the copy editors, I was in touch with local marijuana grower Dave Woo, who grew up in Seattle and has been operating under the name Kush Mountain Collective for around 15 year. Now he's pulling up stakes and moving his family and his business to Oregon. “The pot laws,” he says, “are the main reason we’re moving.”
Woo says that Kush Mountain has never been in trouble with the law, but Oregon’s lower taxes (17 percent versus Washington’s 37 percent) and willingness to let growers double as retailers (which Washington law prohibits) makes it a more attractive climate for serious marijuana businesses that want adopt a farm-to-table approach with more quality control. “When I go to recreational shops, the quality of the stuff is really far from the nice quality of the medical [marijuana],” Woo says. “Now they’re forcing the recreational system on everybody.” (This year, legislators in Olympia also voted to restrict Washington’s medical-marijuana industry, angering legions of longtime medical growers and users.)
Woo, who has heard others in the pot business talk about moving south, thinks that Oregon learned from Washington’s mistakes. “They did a lot more research,” he says. “We won’t have to worry about things changing on us.”
Ian Eisenberg, owner of Uncle Ike’s Pot Shop on 23rd and Union, says he’s not worried about Oregon’s more liberal approach to legal marijuana—or my prediction that Washington residents will prefer Oregon pot. “People who live in Vancouver [Washington] will drive to Portland to buy pot and people on vacation will stock up like people do with alcohol when they go to California,” he says. “But nothing more than that. You’d have to be buying a lot of pot to make it worth your while.”
I'm guessing somebody might—especially for the organic-minded marijuana consumers, since Washington does not yet have a robust and reliable system for monitoring levels of pesticides.
Speaking of Uncle Ike’s, last week the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms admitted it had quietly installed surveillance cameras on utility poles near 23rd and Union without notifying any local agency besides Seattle City Light (who didn't notify anybody else). That displeased the office of city council member Bruce Harrell—who chairs Seattle’s Public Safety Committee—and members of the Seattle Privacy Coalition, who say the cameras could track who comes in and out of Uncle Ike’s to buy marijuana. (ATF spokesperson Brian Bennett says the cameras are recording to a hard disk but are “not actively monitored” and are being used to investigate gun crimes.)
“We’ve had so many shootings here, I welcome cameras,” Eisenberg said. “And they’re across the street, pointed away from my business. I’m in favor of cameras everywhere. I don’t care because I’m not doing anything illegal.” Which is not technically true—nor is the argument that only law-breakers should be worried about state surveillance—but we’re glad he’s happy.
In another landmark moment for American pot, the American Psychological Association announced new research showing that pot use doesn’t turn teenagers into gibbering wrecks with hacking coughs. The study, partly led by Dr. Jordan Bechtold of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, tracked 408 white and black males—with a variety of different marijuana habits—from adolescence until their mid-30s. “What we found was a little surprising,” Dr. Bechtold told the APA. “There were no differences in any of the mental or physical health outcomes that we measured regardless of the amount or frequency of marijuana used during adolescence.” The researchers focused on “respiratory, cardiac, and metabolic problems” as well as “depression, anxiety, and psychosis.”
If a given American teenager has turned into a gibbering wreck with a hacking cough, the study found, marijuana wasn’t the culprit.
This post has been updated since its original publication.