Poll: How do you feel about potential pot shops at 23rd and Union?

Some 21 marijuana retail stores are set to open beginning next year, but zoning restrictions are strict: pot shops must be 1,000 feet from schools, public parks, libraries, and transit centers.

As we’ve reported in the past, it turns out that 23rd and Union has the potential to become a “Little Amsterdam” as the area is one of the few spots that meets these zoning challenges.

This revelation has drawn mixed reactions from the neighborhood, as KUOW recently reported. They report that some community members are “worried that a cluster of pot stores could bring crime to the area. They’re also concerned about kids having easier access to marijuana and how legalization will change the perception of pot.”

Others, though, like real estate investor Ian Eisenberg, who owns property at the corner, are looking forward to the economic opportunities this presents.

“It would bring new people to the neighborhood who are scared of the area from the past perceptions of crime,” Eisenberg told KUOW. “You go to one shop, then you try out another shop next door. That’s the whole idea of a shopping mall, or a strip mall. If we can find a way to pull new customers into 23rd and Union to try out businesses in the new developments — restaurants and bars — it’ll be great.”

We want to know how you feel about the potential for pot shops at 23rd and Union. Let us know in the poll below.

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34 thoughts on “Poll: How do you feel about potential pot shops at 23rd and Union?

  1. One comment I want to make is how terribly unlikely there would be a “cluster” of i502 pot shops. I would be surprised if the Liquor Control Board would give out more than one license for 23rd & Union.

  2. You know the question seems biased. I think the plural (s) on the end throws it off. I wonder if the result would be different if the question were phrased in the singular?

    • I think the plural does make a difference, but the printed version of your quote to KUOW implies that you are anticipating more than one, probably several.

      • From all the rule making’s that I have read I doubt the LCB would want a “cluster.” One is most likely. There is so much misunderstanding about i502 I encourage everyone to read the actual rules before jumping to conclusions. It is very fascinating to watch the birth of a whole new industry.

  3. I voted yes for legalizing marijuana so I am for legalized use. But I have been to the Red Light District in Amsterdam and professionally I’ve interacted with many neighborhood and economic development leaders in that part of the world.

    Many of the Dutch folks shake their heads at the impact the Amsterdam neighborhoods and the people living in them have had to endure because of the concentration of one activity, cannabis coffee houses. In fact, Dutch laws changed in 2012 in part because of the draw the coffee houses presented. And, since those local Amsterdam neighborhoods depended so much on a single type of revenue activity, the cannabis trade, those new national Dutch cannabis laws greatly diminished the local coffee shops’ economic fortunes. People were laid off and coffee houses are closing.

    So, nope, I’m not for a “Little Amsterdam” at 23rd and Union. I don’t believe we should gravitate towards one economic identity and industry on a busy corner that is definitely in need of economic vitality. I am for diverse, integrated retail shops on 23rd and Union. I’m for neighborhood owned businesses (keep the money close to our blocks) that support and draw a variety of people, from near and far, to and through 23rd and Union. A pot shop done well would be fine; a “Little Amsterdam” sounds very unappealing. Each time I hear that “Little Amsterdam” idea quoted, I cringe.

    • And one footnote to my post above: Thank you Ian for clarifying your idea of what numerically you are imagining. Still, describing a “Little Amsterdam” as your vision confuses the idea that you are seeing one single pot shop vs four corners dedicated to more of a night life/ cannabis coffee house district.

      • W – It really isn’t my vision at all. It is entirely up the the LCB. Here is a link to their website. They have made all their hearings, findings and recommendations public http://www.liq.wa.gov/marijuana/I-502

        I apologize for ever joking about “Little Amsterdam.” If I could take it back I would.

        It is interesting to note that the “coffee shops” in Asterdam are illegal I think. Tolerated perhaps, but not like I502 in Washington State. I think it is fair to say the eyes of the world will be on us to see how the first recreationally legal cannabis experiment plays out.

    • Well put, W. Sums up my sentiments exactly. I’m totally in favor of legalized MJ too even though I probably won’t partake myself. But Union & 23rd needs a full diverse range of economic activity to be healthy, not just retail based on the “vices”, so to speak. One or 2 shops would be fine– as long as we see other businesses too.

  4. More murals painted by kids and community members would be a good draw to the area….We could be the first ‘mural district’ in the city.

  5. Does anyone really think that that corner will suddenly become a hub of commerce simply by adding one or two pot shops? While I would personally welcome any new business to that corner, the realist in me just doesn’t see it happening. With the post office leaving, construction from a new building going up on the SW corner (when is that going to be done?), vandalism/arson at MedMix – I’m just skeptical. Would there be foot traffic up from the Hill via Union? Would people drive to the area for pot, food, etc? Either way, I’m super excited an can’t wait to see the “new” 23rd and Union!

  6. The sad part about this situation is that it demonstrates how much the area lacks certain public facilities and amenities, since it is one of the few places in Seattle which meet the criteria of being “1,000 feet from schools, public parks, libraries, and transit centers.”

    • Wasn’t it recently determined that 23&U is less than 1,000 feet from the nearest “no-no” because the definition was changed from “as you walk” to “as the crow flies”?

    • I have always wanted to see publicly owned park space in the area. It would enhance the environment (the air and climate), street and neighborhood calming, activity, and relaxing. I guess we would have to go to the Parks Dept. with a plan. I think something south of Union along 24th would be nice. 24th behind the car wash would work.

      • Yeah, ask the people that live around Cal Anderson what they think of that idea. A couple of legal pot shops and a nice park a block or two away. What could possibly go wrong?

      • I have been to Vondel Park in Amsterdam. What could go wrong?? The following is written by Rick Steves. He pretty much nails it.

        Dutch pot smokers are complaining that the generation that was running around Amsterdam’s Vondelpark in the Sixties naked and on acid is now threatening the well-established, regulated marijuana trade in the Netherlands.

        Responding to international pressure and conservatives in rural and small-town Holland, the federal government is cracking down on the coffeeshops that legally sell marijuana. But big-city mayors, like Amsterdam’s, will fight to keep them open. Amsterdam’s leaders recognize that legalized marijuana and the Red Light District’s prostitution are part of the edgy charm of the city; the mayor wants to keep both, but get rid of the accompanying sleaze. The Dutch have learned that when sex and soft drugs are sold on the street rather than legally, you get pimps, gangs, disease, hard drugs and violence. Amsterdam recognizes the pragmatic wisdom of its progressive policies and is bucking the federal shift to the right.

        Locals don’t want shady people pushing drugs in dark alleys; they’d rather see marijuana sold in regulated shops.

        While in Amsterdam, I took a short break from my guidebook research to get up-to-speed on the local drug policy scene. I find this especially interesting this year, as I’m co-sponsoring Initiative 502 in Washington State, which is on track to legalize, tax, and regulate the sale of marijuana for adults (on the ballot this November).

        The Netherlands’ neighboring countries (France and Germany) are complaining that their citizens simply make drug runs across the border and come home with lots of pot. To cut back on this, border towns have implemented a “weed pass” system, where pot is sold only to Dutch people who are registered. But the independent-minded Dutch (especially young people) don’t want to be registered as pot users, so they are buying it on the street — which is rekindling the black market, and will likely translate to more violence, turf wars, and hard drugs being sold. The next step: In January of 2013, this same law will come into effect nationwide — including in Amsterdam, whose many coffeeshops will no longer be allowed to legally sell marijuana to tourists.

        Locals point out that the Dutch are not more “pro-drugs” than other nations. For example, my Dutch friends note that, while the last 20 years of US Presidents (Clinton, Bush, Obama) have admitted or implied that they’ve smoked marijuana, no Dutch prime minister ever has. Many Dutch people are actually very anti-drugs. The Dutch word for addiction is “enslavement.” But the Dutch response to the problem of addiction is very different from that of the US.

        Being a port city, Amsterdam has had its difficult times with drug problems. In the 1970s, thousands of hard-drug addicts made Amsterdam’s old sailor quarter, Zeedijk, a no-go zone. It was nicknamed “Heroin Alley.” To fight it, they set up coffeeshop laws (allowing for the consumption of pot while cracking down on hard-drug use). Today Zeedijk is gentrified, there’s no sense of the old days, and various studies indicate that Holland has fewer hard-drug users, per capita, than many other parts of Europe.

        Nurseries promise you can take their seeds back into the U.S. An exception is this marijuana starter kit.
        From the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, the number of coffeeshops exploded. The Dutch observed that marijuana use rates increased, too, so they made changes, closing shops that ignored rules or generated neighborhood complaints. Now, new coffeeshop licenses are no longer being issued, and the number of coffeeshops in Amsterdam has declined from a peak of over 700 to about 200 today. With the movement afoot to crack down on things, coffeeshops are trying harder than ever to be good citizens and to nurture good relations with their neighbors.

        While most Americans like their joints made purely of marijuana, the Dutch (like most Europeans) are accustomed to mixing tobacco with marijuana. There are several reasons: Back in the 1970s, most “pot smokers” here smoked hash, which needs to be mixed with something else (like tobacco) to light up. Today, more Dutch prefer “herbal cannabis” — the marijuana bud common in the US — but they still keep the familiar tobacco in their joints. Tobacco-mixed joints also go back to hippie days, when pot was expensive and it was simply wasteful to pass around a pure marijuana joint. Mixing in tobacco allowed poor hippies to be generous without going broke. And, finally, the Dutch don’t dry and cure their marijuana, so it’s hard to smoke without tobacco. Any place that caters to Americans will have joints without tobacco, but you have to ask specifically for a “pure” joint. Joints are generally sold individually (for €3 to €5, depending on the strain you choose).

        Coffeeshops are allowed only half a kilo (about a pound) of pot in their inventory at any given time. On a typical day, a busy shop will sell three kilos (and, therefore, take six deliveries). Very little marijuana is imported anymore, as the technology is such that strains from all over the world can be grown in local greenhouses. (And the Dutch wrote the book on greenhouses.) “Netherlands weed” is now refined, like wine.

        The Dutch hemp heritage goes way back in this sailing culture. In the days of Henry Hudson, hemp was critical for quality rope and for sails. The word “canvas” comes from the same root as “cannabis.” In fact, there was a time when tobacco was the pricey leaf, and sailors mixed hemp into their cigarettes to stretch their tobacco.

        Tourists who haven’t smoked since they were students are famous for overdosing in Amsterdam, where they can suddenly light up without any paranoia. Coffeeshop baristas nickname tourists about to pass out “Whitey” — because of the color their face turns just before they hit the floor. The key is to eat or drink something sweet to stop from getting sick. Coca-Cola is a good fast fix and coffeeshops keep sugar tablets handy.

        No one would say smoking pot is healthy. It’s a drug. It’s dangerous, and it can be abused. The Dutch are simply a fascinating example of how a society can allow marijuana’s responsible adult use as a civil liberty and treat its abuse as a health-care and education challenge rather than a criminal issue.

        They have a 25-year track record of not arresting pot smokers, and have learned that if you want to control a substance, the worst way to do it is to keep it illegal. Regulations are strictly enforced. While the sale of marijuana is allowed, advertising is not. You’ll never see any promotions or advertising in windows. In fact, in many places, the prospective customer has to take the initiative and push a button to illuminate the menu in order to know what’s for sale. And, surprisingly, marijuana is just not a big deal in the Netherlands — except to tourists coming from lands where you can do hard time for lighting up. A variety of studies have demonstrated that the Dutch smoke less than the European average — and fewer than half as many Dutch smoke pot, per capita, as Americans do.

      • Pot shops can’t go in at Cal Anderson because of the park. It is obvious that we have a deficit of amenities including parks.

      • People live on the lots behind the car wash, last I checked, Joanna. In fact, some who are busy raising their families have lived there for the last 50 some years. Why don’t you volunteer your house and your neighbors’ yards for a park?

  7. The poll may be interesting, but we should not see as in anyway reflecting useful data. It is not exactly clear what it is likely reflecting. Those who are near the corner may vote quite differently than those who live away from it.

  8. I think this is a real opportunity for 23rd and Union. It’s sort of a bummer to think that our neighborhood won’t be able to establish any more park spaces in that area (presuming a pot shop gets a foothold). I think Union, between 18th and 24th is already a pretty cool little strip. movie theater, bike shop, bars, restaurants, a radio station and even a Hop Shop on the way. In addition to being a great draw, a pot shop at 23rd and union would be convenient for neighborhood stoners. If you’re interested in legal marijuana competing with the black market, it’s important that the shops be accessible. Put me in the “love it” column.

  9. Really anything developing at 23rd and Union would be a good thing. Pot shops would have a hard time locating there because there are no available retail spaces. The corner is horribly under-developed. It seems like nobody wants to go first in the development of anything new. The reality is that anything new would get rented out quickly because there are people that would like to make things happen in the area and there is no available space to accommodate any new businesses. Ian please break ground on the new building. It will be a breath of fresh air for the whole neighborhood. It might even encourage the other property owners to actually start something too.

  10. On the bright side the city will be getting tax revenue on a billion dollar industry that has been getting by untaxed for a century. I say we give out street vendor licenses as well.

    Make the whole issue not about drugs and crime and associated inequities and make it about revenue. Plain and simple business, tax, and revenue enforcement.

    Can the city pull in $10M in revenue? We could put that to use in positive ways.

    • City gets sales and B&O tax. The Cannabis 75% tax goes to the state, not city. City has to pay to police the stores. This was one of the issues that seemed to garner a lot of ink.

      • The projected revenue from taxing pot sales will increase the cost of an ounce exponentially.
        With the promises made by the initiative, there are several pieces of the profit pie that will be divided up, including B & O tax.
        Why would a pot smoker buy the far more expensive product from these stores and not a street dealer (or acquaintance) when it’ll be less costly? Because it’s legal? I don’t think so, unless they’re wealthy. Food for thought.

        And again, why in our neighborhood that’s inhabited by residents and families?

    • How about if the tax generated stays in the immediate vicinity (i.e. no more than a few blocks) of the shops? Might be something to fight for! We turn your shttg on us into fertilizer.

      • It’d be nice but I can’t believe the government would do that. They have to pay for process, you know. Good idea, though…

  11. I like the fertilizer analogy of a hyper-local tax distribution. Another way to approach it that might have some legitimacy would be to form a local improvement district (LID). For this Pot LID (: (for you old people) we would form a district to collect a tax on drug sales and use that revenue for the benefit of the locally taxed people. We could create a Pot Park with vendors and smoking shelters. Hopefully we would not have to worry about gangs in the pot business for much longer, but, just in case we put in bullet buffers or swales so that ony gun battles are restricted to a small segment of the park. Well, that went kind of tangential as usual, but, – What about the LID idea. Can it work?

    • With a pot lid,. I would hope that the taxes generated would pay for a significant increase in police. Sort of like the NJ Turnpike has their own state troopers who “belong” to them. In effect, the tax revenue generated ensures that any issues are swiftly dealt with by the neighborhood. Local control…. wait a minute :)

  12. Again, make it a Central District wide LID. Collect revenue from all pot vendors. Use the funds for improving the area, methods of controling distribution, and to the extent possible directing usage towards more socially acceptable venues.

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