If anyone wants a boost of positive energy, the perfect way to get it is to stop in at one of the Parkrose’s four marijuana dispensaries. Making a purchase might do the trick, but so will asking the polite and stylish person behind the counter (who is technically known as a “budtender”) about the products or asking the manager how business is. The enthusiasm, optimism and knowledge they share will be inspiring.
Cannabis shops are well-liked for a lot of reasons, according to Mingus Mapps, Historical Parkrose District manager. He rattled off a list of benefits the businesses provide to the neighborhood, beginning with their very presence.
“I have no doubt that our fastest growth sector has been retail marijuana trade,” he said. “It creates jobs and brings people into the neighborhood,” he continued.
The businesses also take part in community meetings and events—GreenBuds Marijuana Dispensary, on Northeast Sandy Boulevard at 109th Avenue, had a booth at this year’s Taste of Parkrose, and the stores contribute to charitable causes. “Their desire to be good neighbors is transparent,” Mapps said.
“We are doing everything by the book and even going above and beyond,” Chris Schaaf of GreenBuds told attendees of a forum on the state of Parkrose’s cannabis business at the Parkrose Neighborhood Association meeting in June. He said they looked at nine or 10 locations and spent a year doing research before choosing Parkrose as the location for the business, which opened last November and employs eight. “It made the most sense,” he said.
Those efforts are paying off. Competition is tough, but business is good. Schaaf estimated that the shop has about 400 “really loyal customers,” as well as casual buyers, and business is “growing every month.”
Proximity to the airport is a big advantage. Schaaf’s business partner, Steve Bolinger, said that people from other states stop at the store on their way in from the airport. Even people from Washington shop there, he continued. They are drawn by Oregon’s lower taxes, high-quality product and the chance to touch and smell that product before they purchase it. “We get people involved,” he said.
Patricia Wiegle, marketing and promotions director of Plane Jane’s, said the store—a cozy converted house a few blocks off Sandy Boulevard on Northeast Simpson Street and 105th Avenue, on the edge of the industrial zone—regularly greets foreign tourists and does a brisk business in souvenir T-shirts, tank tops, hats and stickers.
Plane Jane’s employs seven and has a comparatively large and immaculately maintained parking lot, where the store plans to celebrate its second anniversary on Saturday, Sept. 24, with an appearance by DJ Curtis Young (rapper Dr. Dre’s son, for those not in the know) and plenty of vendors. None of the vendors will be selling cannabis, however, as regulations prohibit it.
Another thing Mapps likes about the cannabis trade is its respectful attitude toward architecture. It fills empty storefronts and improves properties. Deanz Greenz, on Northeast Sandy Boulevard between 105th and 106th avenues, displaced a lingerie modeling business, and La Mota’s building, on Northeast 99th Avenue next to the Pioneer Cemetery, used to house an Oregonian distributorship but was “an abandoned shed,” as Mapps described it, when La Mota took it over. The renovations, he pointed out, will be a lasting heritage of the businesses. Scheduling conflicts prevented interviews with the managers of those stores. However, between its two locations, Deanz Greenz employs between 15 and 20 people, and La Mota has eight stores statewide.
Plane Jane’s sells clones too. “Plants” to the uninitiated, that is. The friendly budtender will be happy to explain that they are actually clones, which means that they are rooted cuttings. There is a lot of terminology to master in the cannabis world. Never mind blunts and doobies—now we have THC and CBD, indica and sativa, Kush, shatter and similar arcane terms. Recreational cannabis users are allowed to buy four plants per household, while medical users can buy six.
Besides cannabis, a shopper is likely to find a host of paraphernalia and derived products. The budtender’s advice can be necessary here, since although there will a variety of pipes available (and probably locally made), there are far more sophisticated modes of ingestion that require instruction before use. And there are cannabis-infused candy bars, beverages, ice cream, bitters and so on. Before using these, the novice must consult the budtender or other knowledgeable user, since the proper dosage is critical. It is not possible to overdose on cannabis in the sense of suffering long-lasting harm, but taking too much is no doubt unpleasant.
Many of those products come in recreational and (stronger) medical strengths, with the latter available only to Oregon Medical Marijuana Program cardholders. Medical marijuana is the topic that makes everyone glow. People in the industry speak of the plant’s benefits with pride. It is used in the treatment of cancer, fibromyalgia, PTSD, anxiety, insomnia and others, and new applications for are being found as more research is being done. Bolinger estimated that medical marijuana made up about 10 percent of GreenBuds’ business.
The industry is subject to “an insane amount of compliance and licensing,” Mapps said. GreenBuds’ Schaaf said that they had to go through a permitting process with “seven or eight” agencies, and maintaining compliance costs several thousand dollars a month. The entire regulatory system is likely to be revamped as the Oregon Liquor Control Commission assumes oversight of the industry from Oregon Health Authority in October.
“There is not really any opposition, and [definitely] no mobilized opposition” to cannabis retailing in Parkrose, Mapps said. He characterized its reception in the neighborhood as “a big shrug.”
In fact, Marcus Nettles, owner of Rose City Vapors on Northeast Sandy Boulevard between 106th and 107th avenues, literally shrugged when asked about cannabis. “It’s not my bread and butter,” he said. He sells a “healing” hemp-derived CBD additive for e-liquid or nicotine vaporizers and a mechanism he called a dry herb vaporizer. (Vaping is another field with considerable specialized vocabulary.) Those account for 10 percent of his business, he estimated. Cannabis customers use his parking spaces, he said, but he doesn’t mind because the increased traffic “lets people see my business.” He could make more money from that market, but “I have a purpose,” he said, and that purpose is anti-smoking, so he does not sell lighters, rolling papers or any other smoking-related paraphernalia.
Behind the scenes, the situation may be more complex. Jordan Ereno, manager of Evergreen Garden Supply at Northeast Sandy Boulevard and 104th Avenue, said the majority of the store’s business comes from cannabis growers, but the legalization and expansion of the cannabis trade has not been a boon. “There’s more competition,” Ereno said. The store has been operating for nine years, he said, and it moved to its current location two years ago. Another garden supply store moved into its old location at Northeast 88th Avenue and Sandy Boulevard. Distributors “wouldn’t have let that happen before [the legalization of retail cannabis sales]. We had an exclusive area.”
No one doubts that there is a bright future ahead for the cannabis industry. “There is so much money invested, so many people involved and so much tax revenue generated that there is no going back,” Steve Bolinger said, summing up the current state of the business.