- "I'm actually looking at a pot store," a local tells me as we standing outside this building, where Main Street Marijuana will open tomorrow. "It's so unreal. I actually lived to see this."
I'm spending the day in Vancouver, Washington, which is a bit of an odd place. True, it’s not exactly a small small town, though it does feel like a small town (population 160,000). Nor is it a deeply conservative place (Obama carried this county, twice), though it does feel deeply conservative (lots of the usual pickup trucks guzzling up and down Main Street, a lawn equipment store near its center, a population that’s generally older, and lots of American flags everywhere). There is no architecture to be found here, nothing really stands out. Everything interesting appears to be across the river in Portland, and everything that is not interesting appears to be in Vancouver.
Or at least that was the story until now.
Tomorrow the mayor "is going to cut the ribbon for the first pot store in the city, Main Street Marijuana," a man named Blake says after we meet at Main Event Sports Grill last night. A young man to the right of us appears to have just passed out—the bartender wakes him and warns him. According to Blake's telling, the mayor has been pushing for a light-rail connection into Portland that would require building a controversial new bridge. "He didn’t get his bridge, but opening pot is not bad."
Blake is correct. The pot store that opens on Main Street on July 9, the first of its kind in the history of this city, is the biggest thing that has happened to this county since it helped elect our country's first black president. The pot store is the one thing that is truly and finally interesting about Vancouver. Portland has nothing like it. Portlanders will have to drive their cars across a bridge to buy pot here legally. “Yeah, true,” says a middle-aged Portlander who happens to be at the Main Event. “But Vancouver has lots of great bars as well. It's not as dull as you think.” So know Vancouver is all that.
His lady friend, a flight attendant who lives around the corner, says: "I can't wait to show my son the [the pot store] when he visits." Finally, something a Vancouver mother can be proud about.
Thirty years ago, you could have said: One day Vancouver will have a light rail running through it, and no one would have found this to be at all nutty—maybe a bit optimistic. But if you said: One day Vancouver is going to vote for a black president instead of his white opponent and then a few years later Vancouver is going to open a pot store on Main Street, a store any adult can go into and buy marijuana products in much the same way they can buy alcoholic beverages, you would have been taken to an insane asylum.
“I'm a millennial, and I've got to say I never thought I would ever see anything like this in my life,” says a local resident named Ben, who won't give me his second name because, he claims, there is no other surname like it in the whole country. Now we are standing in front of Main Street Marijuana, which is in the high-end section of the street—the low-end is near the old bridge. Up the road is a Starbucks and fancy-looking bakery with outdoor seating, Blue Door Bakery. The Starbucks is alive with casual talk about the pot store. Some do not know how it is going to make money selling "only one ounce of pot," others are wondering about how the taxes will work, others are talking about how it is done in Denver, and none of these people look like hippies but the kind of men and women who buy expensive lawn mowers.
There are no Main Street Marijuana signs on the business yet, and its windows are frosted. There's just a piece of paper stuck to its door announcing the day and time of its opening:
“They had to wait for shipment from Spokane,” says a young man heading down the street. “I heard they will only have only 10 pounds to sell. That be gone in no time.”
“I’m actually looking at a pot store," Ben says, just before walking away. "It’s so unreal. And I went to Evergreen. I know all about weed, though I don't really smoke it. But I'm still fucking amazed, man. I actually lived to see this.”