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Seattle's Newest Cannabis Club Lacks Only One Thing: Cannabis

Imagine spending a year getting ready to open a new business only watch the business become illegal at the eleventh hour.

That’s the case for Seattle pot entrepreneur Mike McKenney.

McKenney had everything in place for his private cannabis club, including warehouse space in Seattle’s SODO district. He’d decided that the club, to be called ZERO, would be solely for marijuana use.

“No liquor allowed, just bring your own and we would serve non-alcoholic drinks such as sodas and coffee and snacks,” he said.

The state initiative that legalized pot while outlawing its public consumption didn’t say anything about private clubs. McKenney said he assumed his biggest hurdle he was the longstanding prohibition on indoor smoking.

“We found a way to open without smoking going on with more of a direct vaping solution.”

But just days from welcoming customers into his new place, the state legislature did the unexpected.

“Our attorney got ahold of us and said, ‘Hey, did you guys hear about this?’”

To his shock, McKenney was told about the new law making cannabis clubs in the state illegal. Passed by the legislature in the waning days of the session, it also made it a Class C felony to open or operate a cannabis club.

So, what’s McKenney going to do?

“We’ll go ahead an open.”

That’s right. He plans to open anyway, but with a very important caveat.

“Explain to everyone that this is a cannabis club where you can’t ingest cannabis.”

A no cannabis cannabis club. He hopes people will be motivated to contact their lawmakers, although he acknowledges with the legislative session over, changing the cannabis club prohibition could take awhile.

What McKenney does know is that, if his club is ever allowed to fully operate, he’ll make money.

Three years ago, back before the state liquor board explicitly banned marijuana in places with liquor licenses, McKenney was renting out a bar on Monday nights and using it as a private club.

“We were getting Saturday night numbers on Monday night,” he said.

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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