212 NE 164th Ave., No. 11, Vancouver, Wash., 360-841-7500, theherberynw.com.
Inside the Herbery, it's not an Apple Store or even average medical dispensary chic. But it is clean and brightly lit, with three large jewelry cases holding the goodies and various mechanisms for their consumption, with bongs located on shelves above the cases. The budtenders work in pairs behind each case, ready to find the right bud for you. There are two new ATMs by the entrance for people who want to pay cash for their Pineapple Express instead of using their debit card. Yes, they actually take plastic here.
There's a large strain selection—35 from eight growers when I visited—and it is indica-heavy. They only had grams of Headband and a few sativa-dominant hybrids for sale. But I was told they have people scouring farms for new strains this week, especially sativas. So, sativa man that I am, and despite a weekend-only special that seemed too good to be true—$40 for one-eighth of an ounce of Orange Kush, $12 for a gram-—I settled on Blue Hawaiian, a $20-a-gram giggle inducer.
The strip-mall effect is grounding upon exit. You don't feel like you just left somewhere interesting; it all seems very normal, like when you used to run out to RadioShack for batteries for that fucking wireless GameCube controller. TED LANAHAN.
The Cannabis Corner
484 Evergreen Drive, North Bonneville, Wash., 509-427-4393.
The world's first city-owned weed store, this no-frills shed in the wilds of North Bonneville, which sits across the river from Cascade Locks, is a bold gambit by a city with a cash-flow problem. Last year, the city manager used dwindling cash reserves to form a public development authority that could apply for one of Skamania County's two state-issued marijuana sales licenses and build this blue metal shack on the edge of town. It opened last month, an occasion marked by a "grand opening" banner hung between two concrete pylons off the Evergreen Highway and visits from NPR, Al Jazeera and Bloomberg News. Inside the shop—it's got a gravel parking lot and a green velvet rope at the entrance—things were going well. It had $15 gram bags from three Washington producers and some of the friendliest and most chill city employees you'll ever encounter. MAJOR E. SKINNER.
Cannabis Country Store (pictured above)
1910 W Main St., Battle Ground, Wash., 360-723-0073, cannabiscountrystore.com.
If Battle Ground's new Cannabis Country Store sold John Deere tractors, it would be perfect. Even without the farm gear, walking into this recreational pot shop in exurban Washington is something like walking through the tunnel that divides Disneyland's Frontierland from Main Street, U.S.A.
Outside, a sign that's styled like an old corner saloon's tips you off to the country-store theme. But inside it's amazing how much this shop has done to continue the theme, from the moment you get your head through the door and are asked to "make yourself at home" by a clerk with what seems to be a semi-authentic country accent.
The large room is done up in classic Wild West style, with wood paneling, comfy red couches and a little Toby Keith on the stereo.
This Country Store has 60-plus strains in stock, plus edibles, tinctures and a wide selection of glass paraphernalia in jewelry cases. Like other shops in the newly competitive recreational weed scene, it runs street-price specials, like $10 grams of Agrijuana's OG Kush.
Constructive criticism? The place needs more deer heads, a few wooden barrels full of pickles, maybe some cannabis-infused beef jerky and a raffle for that green-and-yellow tractor mower, which the shop should display in all its glory in the middle of the floor. TED LANAHAN.
High End Market Place
1906 Broadway St., Vancouver, Wash., 360-695-3612, highendmarketplace.com.
So there's something instantly nostalgic about Vancouver's third shop, High End Market Place, which opened earlier this year. Situated in a century-old Craftsman just north of the downtown 'Couv, this little shop feels a lot like an old-school dealer's house, except without the couches or video games or dog. The staff here is refreshingly jokey, and Jimi's here, hanging by the fireplace.
High End is in the Arnada neighborhood (Vancouver has neighborhoods!) on a relatively quiet street that has plenty of parking even if it's not totally pedestrian-friendly (passing truck to me: "GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE STREET!"). It is right next to a lawyer's office, Vancouver's pre-eminent hipster dive bar, the Elbow Room, and a comic-book shop.
It's all very domestic, from the rhododendron bushes around the front porch to the wood-floored foyer, where there's a desk and paintings of an owl and various woodland creatures on the walls. (Also, a really nice Jerry Garcia painting by a local artist—a Jerry Garcia painting so nice you'll briefly consider whether you could hang a Jerry Garcia painting in your home.)
The walls have been torn out on the ground floor, their shells forming see-through bookshelves that've been stocked with glass. The flower selection is relatively limited compared to the other shops in the 'Couv—the cheapest offerings include Obama Kush and Blue Dream for $15 a gram. The selection of edibles is larger and comes from three makers.
Unlike a lot of shops, it has prepackaged goods out on the counter for inspection, so you can actually look over the leaves you're buying to make sure they're not all stems and seeds. Remember that? MAJOR E. SKINNER.
6515 E Mill Plain Blvd., Vancouver, Wash., 360-597-4739, newvansterdam.com.
New Vansterdam is situated next to Safeway and a Jackson Hewitt tax preparation office in a thoroughly suburban stretch of town. Nearby, there's a pay phone and a bus stop with cold, wet people from the surrounding apartment megaplexes. Inside, it smells like weed—well, like bong water—and there's a security guard checking IDs before you can even get to the ATM.
After passing through another door, you enter a wide-open room with two counters where you can pick a strain or buy a bong. Vansterdam seems to be aiming for the Denver dispensary vibe, with reclaimed wood paneling and iPad minis for perusing the dossiers on available strains. A couple from Seattle is impressed: "This is so nice compared to the ones up there. It's way cleaner."
You don't really need the iPad to go through the 200-plus-item menu since there's also a handy binder at each station. A little plastic spice jar has been repurposed for smelling samples, which the budtenders say they try to switch out every week. After you pick a strain, you go into a third room where there's a cash register, then over to another station where you hand over your receipt and get a brown paper bag with your preweighed and packaged weed. MAJOR E. SKINNER.
Main Street Marijuana
2314 Main St., Vancouver, Wash., 360-828-7737, mainstmj.com.
Main Street Marijuana sits behind a frosted-glass window on the leafy northern edge of 'Couvian downtown. Inside, you probably won't even see the security guard until you're leaving, since he's perched behind the door. The back wall is graffiti-styled, the light fixtures are from IKEA, and there's a domesticated seating area with a leather couch and books—in other words, it looks just like your dealer's house after his ladyfriend moved in.
The menu is smaller than New Vansterdam's, but there are more unusual strains, including a "historic first harvest" of Berry White from Life Gardens, which the budtender recommends. The place seems busy with old people asking endless questions about vape pens, but the budtender says business is slow, and it only takes about five minutes to get an order, which comes in a baggie with your name on it, just like at Starbucks, and a complimentary bowl, because you can never have too many bowls. MAJOR E. SKINNER.