Pot shop reopens after price gouging flap

They’re baaaaack.

Main Street Marijuana reopened Monday after last week’s standoff against price gouging and bad quality product.

Prices remain high, but at least there are more assurances for the consumer about quality.

And growers that try to hawk bad product for high prices could find themselves blacklisted by stores across the state.

“There growers think we don’t talk to each other, but we do,” Hamide said. “There’s only about 10 stores in the state so far, and we all compare notes.”

I talked to customers yesterday who overwhelmingly said they were OK with the high prices for now, because they are so happy to see quality controls and lab reports in place.

They’ll be even happier, no doubt, when prices start to drop to more reasonable levels this fall.

-SueVo (sue.vorenberg@columbian.com)

Here’s the story:

Vancouver’s Main Street Marijuana pot store reopens

By Sue Vorenberg
Columbian features reporter

Prices haven’t dropped much since Main Street Marijuana shut its doors last week in protest of price gouging, but at least the quality is improving, said Ramsey Hamide, a manager.

The store, 2314 Main St., closed Wednesday after getting an overpriced shipment of product with lots of stems and leaves, rather than the desired plant buds, from a grower that had promised high quality material.

(Medical marijuana user Krae Williams, 71, walks out of Main Street Marijuana after buying weed from a recreational store for the first time. Photo by Zachary Kaufman/The Columbian)
(Medical marijuana user Krae Williams, 71, walks out of Main Street Marijuana after buying weed from a recreational store for the first time. Photo by Zachary Kaufman/The Columbian)

After reopening on Monday, Hamide admitted the prices are still a bit excessive, but the shipments he got over the weekend from Monkey Grass Farms and Farmer J’s are at least far better quality, he said.

“We’re not going to go below a certain level on quality unless we can have a really good price point option,” Hamide said. “And we have some new contracts pending at lower prices that will allow us to get our per-gram price down by several dollars in a few weeks.”

Right now, prices are hovering between about $17 a gram for pre-rolled joints and $25 a gram for buds at the store.

Ideally, those prices would be about half of that, but with the statewide shortage it’s still going to take time for things to settle down, Hamide said.

So far, only about 100 growers have been licensed in the state out of about 2,500 applicants. Of those, only a few have plants that are mature enough to harvest, which is why there’s a significant supply shortage across the state.

“Around Aug. 10 we’re expecting a big shipment that’s several dollars cheaper, and hopefully that will bring all our prices down,” Hamide said.

Business brisk

And even with the high prices, business has been brisk at both Main Street Marijuana and New Vansterdam, 6515 E. Mill Plain Blvd., which had to close early on Friday after running out of product that store managers expected to last through the weekend.

Many customers, who once again lined around the block for Main Street’s 11 a.m. opening Monday, said they understand the pricing issues and are willing to be patient.

“The prices are a little high, but I respect what the owners are doing with the growers and holding them accountable,” said Jeff, a Vancouver resident who asked that his last name not be used. “The tax revenue, I’m in favor of that, but the growers have to bring these prices down.”

Like many people who have visited the store since it opened on July 9, Jeff said he still fears the stigma of the legal drug and what his employers or neighbors might say if they knew he bought it. That’s why he declined to give his last name, he said.

But that said, he added that he’s really impressed with the stores and he’s happy to see marijuana come out of the shadows.

(Photo by Zachary Kaufman/The Columbian)
(Photo by Zachary Kaufman/The Columbian)

“The quality, the inspection of the product, I really like that,” Jeff said. “People have different reasons for consuming it. My wife has a hard time sleeping and it helps her. A lot of people I see in here are older, baby boomer types, like me. They want to use it to help with medical things, not just to get wasted.”

The labels, which tell consumers the percentage of active components — such as THC, which creates the euphoric high sensation, or CBD, which some use for pain relief — as well as the harvest date, are also a big draw, he said.

“You know what you’re getting,” Jeff said. “Consumers today, we’re label readers. We love having that.”

Max Flint, who is visiting Oregon from New York with a friend, decided to come over to Vancouver to pick up some marijuana as a novelty Monday morning.

“We were trying to figure out if the store would be open, and it was,” Flint said.

He bought a 3-gram bag of three Farmer J’s Sour Kush pre-rolled joints for $50.

“I thought it was a halfway decent deal,” Flint said of the price. “It’s a little more expensive than I would have hoped, but it’s legal and I don’t have to worry about the cops.”

Embracing legality

Another customer, Mark, who — like Jeff — didn’t want his last name used for fear of stigma, said he also thought the prices were high. But that didn’t deter the Portland resident from picking up some product on Monday.

“I’m personally happy that it’s legal,” Mark said. “I won’t go to my local (underground) dealer. I’m a member of legitimate society and I don’t mind paying a higher dollar if it means I’m not risking my life or career and I’m buying a legal product.”

He said he also wants to make a statement about the biased enforcement of drug laws that have led to far more arrests of minorities than it has of white people.

“Part of the reason I’m willing to buy into this is the broad society issue of who ends up getting punished,” Mark said. “People who aren’t white like I am are more at risk. I think this is a first step in legitimizing something that should have been legitimate long ago.”

Krae Williams, who has a medical card but went to the shop Monday to take a look, bought some product but said he might not bother with recreational stores again until the prices go down. He said those prices are far more than what he can get at a medical dispensary.

For most consumers though, the draw of having a product that’s legal, regulated, tested and labeled outweighs the temporary high prices.

“I think it’s worth it because you know what you’re getting,” said Tanja, a Portland resident who also didn’t want her last name used. Tanja visited the store for the first time on Monday.

“It smells great in here,” she said, noting the strong marijuana plant odor inside. “I know the prices are high but I’ll probably come back again. I think the quality’s going to keep getting better, and just doing things the legal way? It’s worth it.”