CANNABIS CULTURE – The first ever recreational cannabis store on the US/Canada border has opened in Blaine, Washington – about one km “as the seagull flies” from the scenic Peace Arch border crossing.
The owner of Evergreen Cannabis says Canadians are already adding the pot store to their cross-border shopping list of gas, milk, clothing and other items that sell for less in Washington state.
“In our first couple of weeks we had quite a number of Canadians stop by,” said owner Jacob Lamont, a longtime area resident. “They tell us: ‘This is awesome! This is great!’.”
Canadians who would like to sample Washington’s marijuana have much to consider, however, besides the price of pot south of the border ($18 US per gram at Evergreen Cannabis; a third of a gram for $8).
First and foremost, cannabis remains illegal under both US and Canadian federal law, despite its legality under state law in Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Alaska. And there is no shortage of federal law enforcement personnel in and around the Blaine WA/Douglas BC crossing, which is actually two crossings – one at the Peace Arch for passenger cars, and the other a mile east, the so-called “truck crossing” that allows vehicles of all types.
Evergreen Cannabis is a 10-minute walk from the Peace Arch, a picturesque stroll through Blaine’s harbor-side downtown area, which the community refurbished a few years back to channel early 20th-century small-town America. Think “Mayberry” on the 1960s Andy Griffith TV show.
But Mayberry didn’t have a pot store. And yet Evergreen Cannabis, at the south end of Blaine’s four-block old-timey commercial strip of taverns, restaurants, antique stores and ice cream shops, seems to fit right in with the town’s Smallville-meets-Google ambience. Evergreen’s nondescript appearance belies its historic significance as the first and only cannabis store on the entire US border, north or south.
So how can a Canadian engage in pot tourism in Blaine, or in nearby Bellingham or even in Seattle? Good question. [Writer’s Disclaimer: I do not advocate breaking the law; the following is for informational purposes only.]
As more cannabis stores open in northwest Washington, US and Canadian border guards will likely be asking short-term visitors from Canada about their smoking habits, according to published statements by border officials of both countries.
Obviously, Canadian Border Services agents can quiz returning Canadians about whether they indulged and whether they are bringing back any purchases from Evergreen Cannabis or any of the other marijuana stores in Whatcom County and beyond.
Equally problematic for aspiring pot tourists is that US border guards may ask inbound Canadians, “Are you planning to purchase marijuana in the United States?” and possibly even, “Have you ever smoked marijuana?” An affirmative answer to either question could result in having entry to the US denied. Border guards are federal employees, after all; they’re just doing their job.
To make things more complicated, Washington’s somewhat restrictive cannabis law does not allow smoking weed in public, so Canadian pot tourists would have to be creative in figuring out where they can consume their US stash, since bringing it back to Canada is a no-no.
“Where to smoke?” is a problem also facing Washington pot consumers; the only place it’s legal to smoke cannabis is at home. Since legalization in November 2013, however, local police have shown little inclination to arrest Washingtonians who discreetly light up in public.
Meanwhile, many Blaine residents seem to be enjoying the distinction of having the nation’s first-ever border cannabis store, regardless of the challenges it might present to Canadian pot tourists.
“I think it’s great,” said one Blaine resident. “Now the Canadians can come here to buy something besides milk and gas.”