By Steve Guntli
Blaine may have its first retail marijuana shop by the end of the month.
Jake Lamont, managing partner with JJF Ltd., is working hard to open Evergreen Cannabis at 922 Peace Portal Drive by the end of November. Lamont has had prior experience starting businesses but said this has been by far the most difficult.
“There’s just so much red tape, so many regulations,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of delays because people are still trying to figure out all the banking issues. The bright side is that the city of Blaine has been very open arms about the whole thing. They’ve worked with me and are making it extremely easy.”
“It’s a new business in town, and we always love to see that,” said Alex Wenger, deputy community planner for the city of Blaine.
The shop will be opening up in the space formerly occupied by the Seaside Locker Room. Lamont and his partners are working to make improvements to the building, including installing a new wheelchair ramp. Lamont couldn’t be specific as to when the store will hold its grand opening, but budgetary concerns are motivating him to be ready for business as soon as possible.
“With any new business, you expect to go over budget,” Lamont said. “We just don’t want to have to pay another month’s rent without generating some cash flow.”
Lamont said Evergreen Cannabis will offer “everything under the sun,” from pot cigarettes and edibles to more esoteric products, like lotions and a marijuana patch, which functions much like a nicotine patch.
“You’d be amazed at how many byproducts are on the market today,” Lamont said. “We’re going to have as many of them as we can on our shelves.”
While many stores in Washington have been plagued with supply problems, Lamont isn’t anticipating any difficulty obtaining product.
“I’m working with several growers,” he said. “I’m very fortunate, because I actually have a lot of friends in that community, so if there’s something I want, I can just call up a buddy and I’ll get it put on the list. I think that gives me an advantage over other people trying to set up shops like this.”
Lamont is aiming for a casual, professional atmosphere for the new store.
“We want it to feel like a cross between Starbucks and an Apple store,” Lamont said. “Very clean, very professional. We want people who aren’t necessarily interested in our product to feel comfortable having this in the community.”
Lamont is hoping that Blaine’s unique geographic location will drive sales.
“My plan is to put a lot of money back into this community,” he said. “Both here and in Colorado, the biggest sellers are always in the border towns.”
According to data recently released by the Washington State Liquor Control Board, two of the highest-grossing retail marijuana stores in the state, New Vansterdam and Main Street Marijuana, are located in Vancouver, across the bridge from Portland. The shops have pulled in $1.7 million and $1.1 million, respectively, since they opened in July. Lamont said Evergreen Cannabis is projected to make even more than those stores.
Blaine’s close proximity to the Canadian border raises some thorny legal issues. Under Initiative 502, non-residents can purchase and consume marijuana products in the state, but are prohibited from taking any product out of state.
It is still illegal to import or possess marijuana in Canada and travelers can be banned from the U.S. if they tell the border agent they are intending to buy marijuana.
Finding a place to safely and legally consume weed can be difficult, as well. I-502 states that it is illegal to consume marijuana within the store itself or in public, so finding a place to use the product legally may be a challenge for consumers without a residence in Washington.
Regardless of the challenges, Lamont is optimistic, and eager to open the store.
“It’s been crazy, but I know it’ll all be worth it, and I hope the community appreciates what we’re trying to do.”