On July 11, Budz, 40, and his business partners will open New Vansterdam, one of the first retail marijuana shops in Washington state—and one of the closest to the Oregon border.
The Washington State Liquor Control Board on July 7 began issuing retail marijuana licenses to 334 businesses selected from more than 2,000 applicants. The state has issued 15 licenses in Clark County, and Vancouver is the county's only city to allow pot vendors to operate.
New Vansterdam's proximity to the Oregon border means its owners expect a rush of business from across the Columbia River.
Budz and his business partners have taken over an abandoned payday loan building. Shabby outside, the storefront inside will feature lounge furniture, big-screen TVs and a 70-foot fir counter.
Washington law prohibits customers from consuming marijuana products onsite, and visitors should be prepared for prices 2½ times that of medical marijuana in Oregon, largely because of taxes.
Budz talked to WW about red tape, the silver lining and greenbacks.
WW: There are a lot of cameras in here.
Brian Budz: There's not a place you can sit, squat or hide that you won't be on camera. That was part of the Washington state law.
How did you and the other investors get involved?
I smoked pot through college. I'd sit around and talk about how I was going to move to Amsterdam and open a coffee shop. Then you're presented with this, which is such an amazing opportunity to start a business and fulfill that ridiculous pipe dream that you joked about as a kid. That's the biggest home run ever.
How did you settle on a location?
We just got lucky that the city of Vancouver doesn't have the moratorium that Camas, Washougal and Ridgefield do. So we have a bubble of space that happens to be right on the Oregon border, surrounded by areas with bans. It's not like Seattle, which will have a couple of [retail shops] every block.
Have you heard from law enforcement about the cross-border traffic?
We're going to allow anyone 21 or older in the store. There will be signs posted that say, "Anything purchased at the store is intended for ingestion within the state of Washington." It's nothing more than making sure people know. We are not babysitters.
In Oregon, the average cost for an ounce of marijuana at a medical dispensary is about $220. What do you expect in Washington?
It will not be that low. When we get the flower from the producer, we are charged a 25 percent tax. When we sell it to the consumer, there's another 25 percent tax as well as the 8 percent sales tax. Because we're not federally recognized, we cannot write off business expenses that a retailer could. It is a lot of overhead.
What's the ballpark figure?
We're going to be about $20 a gram after taxes [equivalent to $572 per ounce]. We have been lucky enough to forge relationships with four growers that we respect for their business model: Monkey Grass Farms in Wenatchee, Nine Point [Growth Industries] in Bremerton, CannaMan [Farms] in Vancouver, and Peninsula Cannabis in Port Angeles.
What will the atmosphere in your shop be like?
We want people to have the space to feel comfortable, to feel private, feel open to asking questions. We're calling it a farm-to-market. The goal is to get people to stop feeling intimidated or illegitimate. We've talked about tours: bringing in a limo, a plane, combining a wine tour with the retail store—jump in the limo, cruise up State Route 14, enjoy the views of the gorge and do some wineries up in the White Salmon area.
How did you go about hiring?
We didn't hire any weed crackpots. Our Craigslist ad got 250 responses. We hired authors, proofreaders, someone just out of college with an accounting degree.
Did they have to know about marijuana?
No. I did an interview recently with The Wall Street Journal. He asked me how many joints can you roll out of a gram. I was like, "I have no idea."
GO: New Vansterdam, 6515 E Mill Plain Blvd., Vancouver, 360-597-4739, newvansterdam.com. 8 am-11 pm daily starting Friday, July 11.