Customers flock to Thurston County’s first legal marijuana retail store

Thurston County’s first legal marijuana retailer opened for business at noon Friday, ready to make history.

At least 100 customers had lined up outside 420 Carpenter, located in an office complex at 422 Carpenter Road SE in the Lacey area.

“This should have been happening a long time ago,” owner Chad Champagne told the diverse crowd before sales began.

With a 5-gram limit, customers could choose from a handful of cannabis strains that were pre-packaged behind a glass display case. Outside the store, a DJ played songs by stoner icons like Bob Marley and Sublime, while Jimmy John’s offered free sandwiches and other munchies.

Lacey resident Mark Sampsell was the store’s first customer. Sampsell said he didn’t mind the inflated price of about $25 per gram, and said he appreciated the strict labeling requirements for each purchase.

“The price is fair,” said Sampsell, who had arrived at 8 a.m. “On the street, you don’t know what you’re getting.”

420 Carpenter is one of 24 retailers to receive a state license this week, although not all license holders have opened for business. Champagne previously told The Olympian that he expects to sell out of marijuana this weekend.

The store gets its product from Farmer J’s, which is based in the Spokane Valley. Farmer J’s also supplies retailers in Spokane and Vancouver – both of which quickly sold out of the first batch this week, said owner Jared Herling. Customers should expect to see more variety and cheaper prices over the next several months, he said.

“It’s going to work itself out,” Herling said Friday. “This is a free market.”

Customers at 420 Carpenter’s opening ranged in age from young adult to senior citizen, from bearded hipster to clean-cut professional. Despite marijuana’s legal status in Washington, several customers shied away from giving their names when interviewed, partly because of the long-held stigmas associated with the drug. An older Tacoma man said he is still waiting for his city’s licensed pot stores to open. The man said he previously had trouble accessing marijuana because his friends had given it up, and he didn’t know any “young folks” who sold it.

Rose Eilts, co-director for NORML Thurston County, proudly showed off a five-pack of pre-rolled joints of the Sour Kush strain. According to the baggie’s label, the product contained 14.52 percent THC, the chief psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.

“It was the lowest THC content,” she said, explaining her selection. “I’m a lightweight.”

Also attending Friday’s opening was Bailey Hirschburg, co-director of NORML Thurston County, who helped run the local campaign for Initiative 502 in 2012. He said federal law is still the biggest obstacle for legalization efforts, both in Washington and other states, specifically when it comes to money and taxes. That’s part of the reason why new stores like 420 Carpenter accept cash only, said Hirschburg, who expects prices to drop as more competitors enter the market.

“Thurston County wants this,” he said.

Under the new state rules for recreational marijuana sales, cities are allowed a limited number of retailers, with two in Olympia, two in Lacey, one in Tumwater and six at-large in Thurston County. The Liquor Control Board received more than 2,000 applications for a total of 334 retail store slots statewide.