Let's start with the bad news. Current Washington state law has all but ensured that Seattle-area recreational shops lack character. All products are prepackaged, meaning you can't touch or smell before purchase—and retail employees cut off from the product aren't as good at consulting. We saw a budtender at a recreational shop explain the difference between BHO and CO2 cartridges as "mostly color, so pick the color of cartridge you like best." Yikes.
Thankfully, a few longtime medical marijuana facilities—complete with budtender knowledge that can't be legislated away—will switch to recreational sales as soon as July 1. If you're looking for the state's top experiences, check out these four shops this summer.
Northwest Patient Resource Center
9456 35th Ave. SW, 206-588-2841, nwprc.net. 9 am-8 pm Monday-Saturday, 1-6 pm Sunday.
Firmly entrenched in a rundown strip mall and outfitted with waist-to-ceiling bulletproof glass, this medical shop is exactly what Washington medical marijuana shops used to look like. Products are placed on shelves against the glass, allowing patients to easily see what they're buying. While the excess security may be worrisome, the customer service makes it almost a nonissue. This is where the more relatively conservative folks shop, including CEOs, Gen X parents and baby boomer retirees. The budtenders' medical training means they have the expertise to recommend a brownie that will relieve your back symptoms without any psychoactivity.
The Center for Palliative Care
74 S Lucile St., 888-972-1555, thecpc.org. Noon-7 pm Monday-Saturday.
There's a bar nearby, serving beer and cider. There's also a lot of parking. And it's right off Highway 99 in South Seattle. The warehouse district location—not to mention the need to ring a doorbell to get in—will scare away less committed cannabis-seekers. But that's sort of the point here, as the CPC specializes in helping people with intractable diseases, hard-to-diagnose maladies, and wellness-related inquiries. While you won't wait in line, you will be able to talk to a consultant for a half-hour during your first visit to help design a cannabis-based treatment plan that you can take anywhere. As one of Washington's 22 medical dispensaries guaranteed a recreational license after July, the CPC's medical approach will change thanks to state restrictions, but its staff's knowledge will not.
112 S 24th St., 253-327-1572, urbanbud.com. 10 am-8 pm Sunday-Wednesday, 10 am-10 pm Thursday-Saturday.
With a pleasant security guide at the door, newly scrubbed concrete floors, and art on the walls, this is as good a place as any to stand in line for legal cannabis. Patrons of Urban Bud, which is around the corner from Jack in the Box and seconds from Tacoma's Link light rail, suggest that visitors take their products to Point Defiance or other nearby, parklike areas to light up.
Tacoma Holistic Collective
3908 6th Ave., Suite B, 253-292-0591, tacomaholistic.com. 8 am-11 pm Monday-Saturday, 10 am-8 pm Sunday.
This is where to go when you're not really sure what you want. Even if you don't have the medical card you'd need to actually buy cannabis here—until July, at least—employees can still answer questions about the effects of various strains instead of just recommending the highest-THC products like so many Washington recreational shops seem to do. Tacoma Holistic Collective will probably have a new name soon, but we're told most employees will stay on.