Pot shop opens in Pierce County despite ban

by: Joanna Small Updated:

PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. - Pierce County's first pot shop “The Gallery” welcomed customers Sunday -- technically, illegally. 

The county has a ban on marijuana retailers.

Just before noon, workers put the final products on shelves they've essentially been waiting years to stock, since before marijuana was ever legalized in Washington State. 

At 12:30 the doors opened and the eager customers came rolling in. They're ecstatic to have a marijuana retailer in Pierce County.

"I'm definitely psyched to hear it and happy to be able to get marijuana without having to go through sketchy dealers and worry about being robbed,” said Jesse Matthews, one of the first to line up outside of the Parkland shop.

But according to county policy, the shelves should be empty and the doors should be closed.

"We have our state license in hand and follow every rule except for that small county regulation they're not very excited about,” said Mike Henery, one of the “The Gallery’s” owners.

That county regulation is an outright ban. 

This -- despite the state issuing 17 marijuana business licenses for greater Pierce County. 

The problem is that in addition to the county ban, the only city within the county that allows for any of those 17 state issued licenses to set up shop there is Buckley, population 4,500. 

So outside of that tiny town and Tacoma, which has its own separate licenses, people like Mike Henery have few options. 

That’s unlike -- Mike says -- medical marijuana dispensaries, which he says are everywhere and technically illegal in Pierce County too.

The county hasn't taken any action to shut those down, so Sunday “The Gallery” owners made a brazen decision to open theirs up.          

"Our hope is that we will receive not a blessing so much but just indifference,” Mike concluded.

The Pierce County executive says she'll have to consult with the county council and the prosecuting attorney before deciding what -- if any -- action to take against "The Gallery."