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Legal Pot Business Owner Recalls A Year Of Highs And Lows

One year ago, Cannabis City owner James Lathrop stood outside his Seattle store, one of the first to sell legal recreational marijuana in Washington, and declared “free the weed.”

A year later, he says his pot business has had its highs and lows.

Early on, Lathrop was plagued by a lack of product. He says the shelves were so empty that he couldn't even have a presence at Hemp Fest, the annual Pro Marijuana gathering in the city.

Now, Lathrop says, that isn’t an issue. He says there’s enough supply that prices have come down from $25 a gram to around $15 a gram. Even on the weekday morning when I visit, there’s a steady stream of customers, looking not unlike people browsing the aisles in your neighborhood supermarket.

Cannabis City is listed in official area tourism brochures and owner Lathrop says, in addition to locals, people come in from all over the world.

“People from Italy will contact me on Facebook and say they’re coming in two weeks,” he said.

Like any new business, there have been glitches.

For example, Lathrop says Cannabis City is on its third sales software system. The first two just didn't work right for his business. The state requires that products be tracked from seed to sale.

But, Lathrop says what most frustrates him is what he sees as over the top regulations.

“There’s all these blockades to an independent businessman trying to be creative,that keep showing up,” he said.

One thing that irks him is that he isn’t allowed to sell t-shirts, hats and other swag to the tourist who come in. The law only allows him to sell pipes and other paraphernalia that is used with weed.

In some cases, Lathrop has been able to figure out work-arounds. As we walk outside, he points to the billboard he purchased across the street that reads “The Pot Shop Heard Round the World-Come in and See what all the buzz is about.”

“There’s significant limitations on signage  on the shop, but interestingly no limitations on signage across the street,” Lathrop says with a smile.id

Lathrop does praises the legislature for simplifying the taxes on marijuana this session. He says it will make the taxes more transparent to consumers, similar to taxes on liquor.

As for what the year ahead looks like for Lathrop, he says he’s hoping to be able to continue to bring prices down in order to compete with what he sees as a growing black market.

But, whatever happens, he says he’s still as excited to be part of the new industry as he was when he shouted, "free the weed.".

Paula reports on groundbreaking legal decisions in Washington State and on trends in crime and law enforcement. She’s been at KNKX since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.
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