Washington State’s road to legal marijuana strewn with potholes

It’s been nine months since the first outlets opened in Washington State, but as store owners and producers are finding, they’re not achieving much of a retail high. As Gary Mason reports, taxes and competition are giving rise to a robust black market.

Amber McGowan surveys the clutch of customers milling around the three counters in her tiny marijuana retail outlet and nods approvingly – pot is hot.

Men and women who appear to be mostly over 50 consider products with names such as Headband, Skunk, Banana Kush and THC Bomb. A five-pack of oatmeal cookies that are nothing like the ones your mother used to make go for $42 (U.S.). Behind a glass enclosure there are bongs of every colour and description. Psychedelic renderings grace the store’s wood-panelled walls.

“I have to say business has been fantastic,” says Ms. McGowan, manager of Cannabis City, the first marijuana store to open in Seattle. “But unfortunately that’s not the whole story.”

Not even close.