Skagway’s first legal pot sales took place on Jan. 20. The Remedy Shoppe was the first marijuana retail business licensed in the state. But the store had to wait about four months for its first shipment of marijuana. Now, a green light shining in the window indicates the pot shop is open for business.
“The Chem Dog 91 is a sativa-heavy hybrid,” ‘Budtender’ Reba Radey gives the pitch for each of the Remedy Shoppe’s four marijuana strains on a recent evening.
“I’m taking out a bud from the Sour Al jar, which is the cultivator favorite,” Radey says. “I’m putting it under the light try so the consumer can check out the structure of the bud and basically how well it’s been manicured.”
That’s when a couple customers walk in the door. This is a quiet time of the year for Skagway, with less than 1,000 year-round residents. But there’s been a steady stream of patrons since the Remedy Shoppe started selling weed on Jan. 20.
“For years, everyone’s been told that it’s illegal and you should hide,” said Remedy Shoppe owner Tara Bass.
Bass decided to open a pot shop because she saw it as a good business opportunity. She says she’s not a marijuana user herself. Bass says the stigma that’s grown around marijuana as an illegal drug is still there in some people’s minds.
“It was the first time in my life here that sometimes I get a few sideways looks,” Bass said. “But they’re also very open to talk to me, which I appreciate. Because if they do want to talk about, if they’re uncomfortable, then I understand. I’ve invited all the people who feel comfortable or uncomfortable to come in and learn about it if they want to.”
The unease some feel about a pot shop just off Skagway’s busy Broadway Street isn’t the only challenge Bass has encountered as she navigates the budding industry. It took four months to get her first five pounds of marijuana. She bought it from a cultivator in Sitka called Northern Lights Indoor Gardens.
“The whole state is dried up,’ Bass said. “There’s not enough cultivators on the market at the moment.”
The cultivator arranges transportation of the product to a testing facility and to the retailer. Since marijuana is illegal federally, there has been concern about how businesses can transport product around the state. Northern Lights Gardens didn’t return calls for this story.
But the Alaska Marijuana Control Office says if the transportation of marijuana meets state regulations, it should be permitted by the federal government under what’s called the Cole memo. The Cole memo says the federal government will allow businesses to engage in federally illegal activities, like growing, selling and transporting pot, as long as state standards are followed.
And those state standards? There are a lot of them.
“Every night we have to report to the state how many grams we sold, what the dollar amount is on each,” Bass said. “Every night.”
There are still questions Bass has for the marijuana control office. She’s hoping to get permission to use the shop’s backyard as a sort of beer garden, where people can smoke the joint they just bought on-site.
“You’ll be able to see the mountains in the back and stuff,” Bass said. “So we hope that all goes through. And if it doesn’t and we have to go through more hoops, we’ll go through more hoops. If they say jump, we’ll say how high?”
The Remedy Shoppe has been a hit with Skagway locals. In the first few days after the store’s ‘soft opening,’ more than 100 people stepped through the door. Jack Inhofe is one of them.
“I bought something called [THC] Bomb,” Inhofe said. “It’s 18.1 percent indica, it’s one gram, and it cost me $23.”
Inhofe is an ivory carver. He says smoking marijuana helps his productivity.
“I’m getting a little glaucoma in one eye and when I’m carving I kind of squint a little bit,” Inhofe said. “And when I take a hit — boom! I can see your soul. So it really helps me.”
For now, the Remedy Shoppe is serving mostly local customers like Inhofe. The business is likely to see a huge increase in the summer, when hundreds of thousands of cruise ship tourists visit Skagway. Bass has no idea whether she’ll be able to meet demand.
“We might open up for a day or two and be out. I don’t know,” Bass said. “So this is what’s interesting about this industry — nobody knows what it’s going to be.
For now, the Remedy Shoppe is open during limited hours. Bass is planning a grand opening of the store in March.