Legal pot clubs could remake Seattle nightlife scene

by: Graham Johnson Updated:


SEATTLE - At I Bake Denver, you see and smell marijuana use. But mostly you feel it, deep in the lungs.

Increasingly-stoned people use handheld blow torches to heat hash oil and inhale it.

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The owner of I Bake Denver introduces himself as Thurlow Weed and shrugs off questions about whether that's his real name.

"Everybody asks and I always say that's what you'll be getting," he said.

He describes the shop as the nation's first and only head shop that allows cannabis consumption.

It's basically a private club with dues.

He says there are nearly 2,000 members who each pay $7.10 a month plus tax.

They must either have Colorado medical marijuana cards or be 21 or older.

Similar gathering places for marijuana users are now possible after voters in Colorado and Washington legalized recreational pot.             

In Washington, users can't legally smoke a joint on the street or in public view.

Many apartments and hotels don't allow pot.

Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes expects there will be a need for people to use marijuana legally, somewhere.

"We should try to accommodate that, anticipate the demand and accommodate it," Holmes said.

Holmes says Washington's indoor smoking ban and drug-free workplace laws pose a legal hurdle for pot clubs, and changing state law would make it easier for them to open.

Holmes says following the model of cigar shops or hookah bars, they're possible under existing law.

"But I would caution any entrepreneurs, any pioneers, to make sure they have good legal counsel," Holmes said.

The director of the Washington State Liquor Control Board, which is implementing a legal marijuana system, is not eager to jump into regulating pot clubs.

"Let's see what happens with the system the voters have approved before we go any further," said Rick Garza.

The liquor board recently banned marijuana use in places with liquor licenses, after one bar in Olympia allowed people to smoke weed in an upstairs room.

Events like a 420 celebration in Seattle last year, which had both pot smoking and beer sales, are unlikely to be allowed in the future.

Back at I Bake Denver, "Thurlow Weed" is quick to point out there's no alcohol.

He will not explain his legal strategy for staying open when other cannabis clubs in Colorado have been shut down, often with local ordinances.       

He will say I Bake Denver is deliberately not within the city limits.

"Six blocks down the road in Denver they might want to give us a fight for what we're doing," he said.

A similar fight could be coming to Washington, as pressure grows for legal places to use a now-legal drug.

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