Mike Force

MARY "I think alcohol is more damaging to our society than marijuana."

Mary, 60, marijuana saleswoman for 20 years

Why did you start selling marijuana?

Well, I was a single working mom with a smart son who had his heart set on going to a fancy East Coast college. I promised him that if he could get in, we could pay for it. An old hippie friend of mine was a small-time [marijuana] farmer, and I love to garden, so it made sense to get into the business.

Aw, what a good mom! You started growing pot to fulfill your son's childhood dreams! I can relate—my mom dated a series of real-estate agents to fulfill my childhood dream of living in a house with a pool.

She sounds like a lovely woman.

She's all right. I mean, she refused to date a pool boy, so I had to clean that damn thing every summer. Did you have any moral conflicts with becoming a marijuana saleswoman?

You know, at first I did. I had a teenage son, and parents are rather indoctrinated with anti-marijuana propaganda through school and the news as much as their children are. At first, I worried that my son would become a drug addict because of me, or his friends would. That was my biggest fear: having a fellow mom on my doorstep, crying, because she caught her son or daughter smoking my weed and traced it back to me somehow. That I would become the gateway to some kid dying in an alley with a needle in his arm.

How did you overcome those fears?

I never did, completely. I compromised by only selling product that I grew or could trace to the source, and by having many serious drug talks with my son. Through that, I made peace with the unease, just as I'm sure bartenders have to make peace with serving drinks to customers who clearly have complicated issues with alcohol. I have never and would never sell to kids, but frankly, I think alcohol is more damaging to our society than marijuana.

Did you quit your job and turn to selling marijuana full-time?

I never did quit my other job—I love that job. I did semiretire a few years ago and drop down to part-time. I've been really fortunate in that I'm able to support my family doing two things that I love to do.

Did you vote for Initiative 502 to legalize marijuana in Washington?

Yes, I did.

Are you worried that Washington's new marijuana stores are going to put you out of business?

Me personally? Yes. But that's a good thing. I think small operations like me will have to start upping their game and really cater to a specific client base to stay competitive, and I don't have that in me. I have grandbabies now, and my son is understandably a little wary of having his children around that.

Running through lush fields of marijuana in your basement?

[Laughs] Something like that. I've been cutting back my business, and I'll probably retire altogether sometime in the next few years. That said, with legalization, I think there's still room in the market for large enterprises, smaller craft businesses, and those like me, who still operate on a small scale outside the bounds of the traditional commercial market, just as there is with alcohol production. Regulation will undoubtedly cut into our profits, but I think it's worth it to stop stigmatizing marijuana use and bankrolling drug cartels.

How do you think marijuana stores will change how small neighborhood dealers like yourself operate their businesses?

Well, for one thing, I think dealers are becoming more businesslike. It used to be, when I started out, that your customers would come to your home, hang out for a while, chat, smoke, and buy some weed. The act of buying and selling marijuana was a social engagement, like a potluck. Thanks to our regressive drug laws, there was a lot of trust involved on both sides—and that forged a bond between people. I don't think that bond is as strong anymore.

Was your son suitably grateful for your decision to become a marijuana saleswoman? Did he attend his fancy school?

Yes, but he ended up dropping out his sophomore year, moving home, and attending a more reasonably priced school. The East Coast turned out to be too rich for his blood.

***

Mike Force

BEN "So far, legalization has only increased sales."

Ben, 32, marijuana salesman for 12 years

How did you get into the business of selling marijuana?

It was college, I needed a job, and it paid better than working in the cafeteria.

Support The Stranger

Why did you continue to sell after graduating and becoming a professional suit?

Professional suit? I'm semiprofessional, at best. And it's really hard to give up that extra income stream. Plus, I enjoy it. I really like my customers—I just sell to friends and friends of friends—and I'm proud of my product.

Did you vote in favor of Initiative 502 to legalize marijuana use in Washington?

I actually didn't. I was worried about how it would affect my business. But I've since come around.

So how do you think Seattle's new pot stores will affect your business?

So far, legalization has only increased sales. I have a lot of friends who were wary of smoking pot when it was illegal and have since given it a try and become enthusiastic customers. I think, as more stores open and the public becomes more comfortable with pot as a mainstream drug that won't wreck your life—at least, no more than alcohol does for some people—more people will give it a try. And in places like Seattle, where it's hip to shop local and organic and drink only the craftest of beers, people like me will still have a customer base.

Have you changed your business at all to cater to this type of boutique client?

I guess I have. In college, people didn't give a shit about what type of weed they were smoking or where it came from. Now they want that information. You're right—I've totally gone boutique.

***

Mike Force

FRANKIE "Holding a laptop on your lap for too long can overheat your scrotum."

Frankie, "24ish," marijuana salesman for two years

How did you come to be selling marijuana in this coffee shop?

True story: One day, my buddy handed me a bag of ganj and was all, "Sell this for me," and I was like, "Okay."

Is this your main source of employment?

I do odds and ends. Like house painting and grooming.

Grooming?

You know, like yards. Plants and stuff. I also play music. Bang on drums, you know?

Ah.

But I like this job. You get to meet a lot of people, have some nice conversations, learn some interesting facts. True story: The other day, I sold ganj to a student of urology and learned some interesting facts about urology. Everyone you meet is pretty cool, pretty nice.

I bet it wouldn't pay to be mean to your weed dealer.

[Laughs] That's right.

Tell me an interesting fact about urology.

For instance, holding a laptop on your lap for too long can overheat your scrotum. You know, kill sperms.

Wow, I didn't know that. So are you worried that Seattle's new marijuana stores, the first of which is opening today, will put you out of business?

Nah, I don't know too much about that, but I'm not worried.

Why not? Are you diversifying your business to ensure you stay competitive in this evolving market?

Exactly.

How?

Well, for one thing, I come to people. Some people aren't going to want to bus or drive to the ganj market. You see me in a coffee shop now, but that's because I'm waiting for someone. I deliver. For another thing, my girl likes to bake, so now I'm thinking of offering free goodies with every purchase.

Marijuana-laced goodies?

No, regular kinds. Rice Krispies and shit like that. A peanut-butter cookie.

Kind of like an after-dinner mint for stoners.

Exactly. You got to go where the demand is, see? Another thing: People can get ganj other places, ergo I'm going to concentrate on selling more specialty products.

Like what?

Mushroom candy, you know. Things baked into things. Whatever people want. I'm a businessman, not a... uh.

Wordsmith?

You know what I'm saying. The struggle is real.

The struggle is real.

[Nods] The struggle is real. recommended

All the names in this piece have been changed, and the portraits were pulled out of an illustrator's ass.