The Columbian / Associated Press

High End Market Place in Vancouver goes green

High End Market Place, a medical and recreational cannabis dispensary in Vancouver’s Uptown neighborhood, has become the first marijuana establishment in the county to be certified under Clark County’s Green Business program.

The announcement comes in time for two of the most important green days of the year. The first is today, April 20, which has become the biggest annual sales day in the cannabis industry due to the use of the slang term 420 in cannabis culture to refer to the consumption of marijuana.

But High End co-owner Morgan Hutchinson says what she’s really excited about is 422 — as in Earth Day — which will arrive a couple days later and give the business a chance to celebrate its new certification.

The certification program is run by a partnership including the county, Clark Public Utilities and the city of Vancouver. It recognizes sustainable business practices and provides assistance to businesses to develop sustainability goals. High End is one of five businesses that have been certified in 2019, county officials say.

Hutchinson says the Earth Day timing is important to highlight sustainability efforts among cannabis businesses.

Despite the plant-based core product, the emerging retail marijuana industry has faced criticism for not actually being all that green — a 2018 Washington Post story noted that the legalization of recreational cannabis has led to an increase in litter due to the use of non-recyclable plastic tubes and Mylar bags as packaging, as well as problems with fertilizer runoff and an excess of plant waste being sent to landfills.

High End’s co-owners have been working to source their products from ethical and environmentally friendly producers, Hutchinson says. But the certification helped them set targets such as a 30 percent reduction in the store’s paper use this year and a switch to post-consumer recycled paper.

Hutchinson says they’ve also been pushing their producer and processor partners to explore non-plastic packaging such as glass and cardboard. But that’s especially challenging, she says, because while glass packaging is great for maintaining freshness, it’s much more expensive than plastic.

“That’s one of our goals, to continue to work with producers and processors on packaging,” she says. “[Plastic] is really, really pervasive.”

Hutchinson says she and her partner Gareth Kautz have become more involved in the community since they opened High End in 2015. And when they learned about the Green Business certification six months ago, they viewed it as another opportunity.

“We thought, ‘We’re already practicing a lot of these things — why not go that extra step?’ ” Hutchinson says.

Hutchinson says they want to set an example for other cannabis businesses, and to improve the public reputation of the cannabis industry. A combination of advertising restrictions at events with minors and a general aversion to the cannabis industry has blocked High End from some of the sponsorship opportunities that are typically available to local businesses, Hutchinson says, such as CouveFest NW. So she says it’s exciting when the owners find new programs that allow them to participate.

“We get told ‘no’ a lot,” says Hutchinson, whose business is a member of the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce and the Uptown Village Association. “There’s still so much negative stigma with this plant.”

The business has also partnered with Prevent Coalition, a Clark County organization that works to prevent youth substance use. Today is anticipated to be High End’s busiest day of the year. Hutchinson says the store plans to begin handing out new point-of-sale cards today with more information from Prevent.