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Hundreds of people waited in long lines Wednesday to witness the historic opening of Vancouver’s first legal marijuana shop.
The store, Main Street Marijuana, 2314 Main St., opened shortly after 11 a.m. following a ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt.
“I believe it’s been a long time coming,” Leavitt said.
Justin Dufour of the marijuana services company Viridian Sciences, which has offices down the street, was the store’s first honorary customer.
But Mark Edwards of Salem, Ore., was the first customer in line to buy pot in Vancouver. Edwards, 42, and a friend drove to Vancouver at 3 a.m. to secure their places at the front of the line.
“I think 100 years from now, folks will see my name — I’ll be part of that history, part of that story,” Edwards said.
They were alone until about 6 a.m., when the crowd started to fill in. He said he was especially impressed by the hospitality of local uptown businesspeople who walked by giving out water, doughnuts, coffee, American flags and other items to those waiting.
“We’re just kicking back taking it all in,” he said. “The prices (for product) are higher than you can get it on the streets. But we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t want to be a part of this and support it.”
By 9:45 a.m., the line extended down the block and had grown to a few dozen people.
Further down the line, Dan Penticoff, 55, of Hazel Dell said he was relieved to see stores open. He has a medical card and uses the drug for pain, but he hasn’t been able to find a local medical dispensary.
He’s on a fixed income, and said the trip to Seattle to find a dispensary was just too costly, and he can’t go to an Oregon dispensary because it’s in another state.
“I have a steel plate in my back and a steel bar in my arm,” Penticoff said. “I’m in a lot of pain, and this is the only relief I can get.”
He got the injuries in a construction accident in 1997, he said.
“The prices are high, and being on a fixed income I can’t afford very much,” Penticoff said of the $25 to $30 cost of a 2-gram bag. “I’m looking forward to the prices coming down to be more reasonable.”
By 10:30 a.m., about 200 people were waiting for the store to open. When asked, 14 of them said they were from Oregon.
Main Street Marijuana manager Chris Stipe said he was happy to see our neighbors to the south coming up to partake of the festivities.
“I just want to say I’m looking forward to people coming from out of state, out of the country, bringing in business to the local restaurants and hotels,” Stipe said. “I believe it’s going to bring in a lot of revenue for the state. It’s amazing.”
Jane Smith, 24, who is visiting Portland on a road trip from Georgia, heard about the first pot store opening in Vancouver and decided she wanted to be part of the historic event. After her purchase, she was hoping to find a local resident who would give her a place to smoke the product she bought, since it’s illegal to bring it back to Oregon.
“I’m trying to find somewhere that I can smoke it legally,” Smith said. “I would like to find a house.”
Edwards has family in Vancouver and said he planned to spend the afternoon with them enjoying the product before returning home.
“Of course, I’m going to consume in Washington; I have family here,” Edwards said. “I’m going to stay at their place, consume it and then go back home when it wears off.”
Leavitt cut the ribbon and opened the store just after 11 a.m.
“I want to encourage all of you to enjoy the use of marijuana within the legal confines,” Leavitt said.
At about 11:15 a.m., the store announced it would allow customers in 10 at a time. Identification was required, and purchases could only be made with cash. An ATM was set up at the store for bank withdrawals.
Meanwhile, a freeway reader board operated by the Washington Department of Transportation was carrying this message: “Drive high and get a DUI.”
In addition to the customers, the area was swarming with media representatives, curiosity seekers and those who just sought to witness a bit of state history.
“The line’s a little long and the prices are a little high, but I think it’s a great thing,” said Marie, a customer at Vancouver Pizza, who was watching the festivities from across the street.
Deanna Pauli-Hammond, a candidate for Clark County Clerk, also visited the scene, just to check it out.
“I wanted to see the activities,” Pauli-Hammond said. “I think this is a good thing for the community. I think it’s actually going to help keep crime down. We need that.”
After noon, the line grew even longer — and some buyers, including Penticoff, found themselves trapped by illegal parking outside the store.
“I just can’t wait to get home,” Penticoff said, showing off the 2-gram bag of Sour Kush he bought from the store. “My mouth’s watering.”
Also Wednesday, the medical marijuana grower Grow Systems Northwest was handing out samples for free, though it accepted donations. The company’s owner, Adam Alexander, said the move was in response to high prices at the store.
“If people have to pay $25 a gram, we need to do something,” Alexander said.
Alexander drew the attention of Vancouver police officers who were on scene. He was advised that it was illegal to share, distribute or give away marijuana outside a legal store.
“There’s an education piece to this about the law,” said Tyler Chambers, a detective with the Vancouver Police Department. “You can’t share it, give it away or distribute it in any shape or form.”
Chambers warned Alexander, but police didn’t arrest him.
“At this point, I don’t think it was an intentional thing,” Chambers said.
Alexander said he appreciated them talking with him.
“I appreciate you guys being so cool,” Alexander told them before leaving the area.
An impromptu street fair put on by Viridian Sciences, dubbed Weed and Weenies, was in full force in a parking lot two blocks south of the store.
Main Street Marijuana employees said they expected to have enough supply for customers for the rest of the week. Another shipment is due in on Friday.
A second licensee, New Vansterdam, has received its permits and plans a Friday opening. That store, at 6515 E. Mill Plain Blvd., has about 30 pounds of marijuana secured for its 8 a.m. grand opening.
For more information, visit The Columbian’s Cannabis Chronicles blog at http://cannabis-chronicles.com.
Lou Brancaccio and John Hill of The Columbian contributed to this story.