Several years ago King City and other Oregon cities passed ordinances declaring marijuana dispensaries illegal within their city limits. After voters legalized recreational marijuana in Oregon, those ordinances were ruled invalid.
So guess what popped up next door to King City City Hall in mid-August? A Green Planet Dispensary & Smoke Shop selling cannabis, extract and edibles, the third location in the metro area for the company.
King City officials were working to purchase the former Purkey's Tax Services building for a future city hall or police station, but when the deal fell through, Green Planet jumped at the chance to buy the property that borders Pacific Highway.
The remodeled main floor is now one large, open space except for an office in the rear, with a dramatic black-and-gray color scheme and wall-to-wall glass shelves and cases showcasing everything cannabis.
"We have a little over 60 strains that range in price from $5 to $14 per gram," said store manager Janet Sosa. "We have mostly have recreational cannabis with a limited medical section."
Then there are all the paraphernalia and products that includes pipes (some of which are hand-crafted works of art); topical ointments for pain relief; bath salts; edibles that include chocolate, cookies, gummies and mints that range in price from $2.50 to $22; tinctures; and for adults who don't want to smoke in front of children, there are infused beverages.
Then there is dabbing, which as employee Marcus Guzman explained, involves heating up the oil to vaporize it.
"Unlike the flowers, which contain organic material, when you vaporize it, it is cleaner with no bi-products and is the most potent form," Guzman said. "It is less harsh, and you get more bang for the buck. It's a new product in Oregon and costs from $25 per gram to $50 per gram. And we have a wide selection of vape pens that either use batteries or need recharging."
Anyone with an Oregon marijuana medical card gets 10 percent off all products and pays no taxes, and veterans get 10 percent off everything but must pay taxes.
Sales of medical marijuana and recreational marijuana are regulated differently in Oregon.
"We just started a loyalty program where for every $100 someone spends, they get a $2.50 credit to spend in the store," Sosa said. "Every day something different is 10 percent off from the paraphernalia to the edibles."
If customers spent more than $60 before the Aug. 21 solar eclipse, they received one free pair of eclipse glasses.
The industry is regulated by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which includes everything from the products themselves to the labels. "We can change labels if they are not off by more than a certain amount," employee Will Irwin said. "Sometimes vendors fall behind in their labels. There are three pages of labeling rules alone and about 78 pages of regulations for the marijuana industry.
"We also check for mold," Irwin said. "The smell test is the first test. We look at the structure of the bud and the moisture content — we don't want it to crumble into dust. And we have to clean all the containers to avoid cross-contamination. It is all about bringing the highest-quality product to the customer."
Security cameras are everywhere, operating 24/7, and the OLCC can check them at any time. All employees must pass a test and go through a background check before being employed at a marijuana dispensary, and there is ongoing training.
Age also is a factor for access to the dispensaries. As Sosa puts it, "No human under 21 is allowed on the premises, which means parents cannot bring in young children like they do in liquor stores, but pets are OK."
Most of the prepackaged items are child-proof, "and we have exit bags that are childproof for everything else, so people leave with everything child-proofed," Sosa said. "What they do after that is up to them."
There are even rush hours at Green Planet, which is open Monday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. per city code, with a larger crowd right after work and another one right before closing.
Green Planet also has dispensaries in Beaverton and Milwaukie, and employee Spencer Lake, who previously worked at the Beaverton location, said the King City building is the first one owned by the company.
"We're also excited to be so close to the police department," he said.
In the locked office, where all visitors must sign in on an OLCC form, Irwin talked about the myriad of OLCC regulations that govern the industry. "The hardest part is making sure all the vendors are compliant," he said.
Also in the office is a walk-in safe, where marijuana products destined for the sales floor are in storage. At night, all the products on the sales floor are stored there. There is a weekly audit of all the products, but in reality it is done daily, rotating through the different sections.
Green Planet also just got menus, which look a lot like restaurant menus, and which list all the products, options and prices, and are updated regularly.
There are about 20 employees currently at the King City Green Planet, and the company is hiring. Sosa herself has a legal background, graduating from law school and working in high-impact litigation. The staff comes from such diverse backgrounds as the military, banking and bar-and-restaurant management.
According to Sosa, more than 90 percent of all the glass products used and sold in the dispensary come from Oregon vendors. "We partner up with local manufacturers as much as possible," she said.
The business also purchases many auxiliary products such as plastic containers from local vendors, which help support Oregon's economy. "If marijuana were to become illegal, it would hurt hundreds or even thousands of businesses that support our industry," employee Khrystyana Brasseur said.