By Dan Catchpole Herald Writer
BOTHELL — Forget the deejay spinning reggae music, or the pizza and rolling papers for sale in the parking lot of the area’s newest recreational marijuana retail store.
Herbal Nation, which opened Monday, is courting middle-aged professionals and retired people. It’s also accepting debit cards, something most pot stores aren’t doing yet.
Hundreds turned out. Some were in their 20s, but most were middle-aged and older. Many looked like they could have been waiting in a line at Whole Foods.
“Our clientele is 30s and older,” said Will Pearson, who was greeting customers and checking IDs at the door. “Either they don’t have a steady supply, or they haven’t tried it in decades, and they’re saying, ‘Hey, it’s legal. I want to try it again.’”
The opening drew many out-of-towners, he said. “I’ve seen a lot of Florida licenses today.”
He even had a customer from New Zealand, he said.
Pearson, 24, said he’s a “‘budtender,’ like a bartender for marijuana,” which is colloquially called bud.
“I greet them and get a feel for their comfort level with marijuana,” he said.
Based on that, he recommends some strains to try, suggesting less potent, mellower ones for newcomers.
“We don’t want to overwhelm anyone coming in for the first time. We want to give them a beer, not a bottle of vodka,” Pearson said.
Herbal Nation got a recreational marijuana retailer license from the state last month and actually started selling quietly last week.
The grand opening Monday was delayed to ensure consistent supply, Pearson said. Other marijuana stores that opened in July have struggled to get enough pot to meet demand.
That’s been the experience for Cascade Kropz, off Smokey Point Boulevard in Arlington. The family-owned store opened more than a month ago but has only actually sold marijuana on eight days.
They ran out of supply and have been working with growers to get something lined up by September, co-owner Lisa Kihm said.
“There is product out there, but we’re not going to pay crazy prices and pass it on to the consumer,” she said. “We’re going to get the best quality for fair prices.”
The shop saw hundreds of visitors each day during their first week and a half of operation, and their stock quickly sold out.
The legal recreational marijuana industry is new to the state, and production hasn’t quite caught up with demand, Kihm said. She expects things to be smoother this fall when harvests come in.
Cascade Kropz and many pot stores in the state are still cash-only. Voters in Washington and Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, but the federal government still considers it a controlled substance. So banks have been hesitant to get involved.
Herbal Nation has found a federally insured bank willing to work with it, though, said a man claiming to be the company’s attorney.
His introduced himself as Joe but declined to give a last name due to “security concerns.”
Being able to take debit cards and, by the end of the month, credit cards “eliminates a lot of stress for us,” he said.
Employees don’t have to carry bags of cash, and vendors can be paid with cashier’s checks, Joe said.
Paying with plastic is familiar for customers. You swipe a charge card at the Gap or the grocery store, not at your local drug dealer’s house.
But that legality comes at a price, with legitimate marijuana costing twice as much as what people pay on the black market and for medical marijuana, several customers said.
“It was a curiosity,” said Tom, a customer wearing a dress shirt, dark leather shoes and black-wool slacks. His hair was neatly cropped and combed.
The 33-year-old said he has a medical marijuana card, so he can buy it cheaper elsewhere.
“There’s really no reason for me to come back,” Tom said.
That’s fine with Joe, the man claiming to be Herbal Nation’s attorney.
“Our customers are engineers, nurses, professionals who are willing to pay a premium for legal marijuana,” he said. “The younger market, they’re going to continue buying from the black market.”
Reporter Kari Bray contributed to this article. Dan Catchpole: 425-339-3454; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @dcatchpole.