Is Customer Choice Disappearing in the Seattle Cannabis Market?
A View on the Seattle Cannabis Market
As a 40-something year old pothead I prefer to center my use of the plant around outdoor activities. I like skiing and hiking, rather than something cerebral like watching movies or playing video games. I therefore prefer my THC percentages in the sub-20 range because while I like to get high, I don’t want to be so stoned I can’t function properly in some powdery trees. There is a big difference between enhancing an activity and doing something cerebral because you are too stoned to do anything else, at least in my opinion. However, I am learning that I may have a limited opinion.
If you read about weed, or check out the advertising in today’s weed-focused media you will see growers reaching for the stars in terms of producing flower strains with higher and higher THC percentages. In fact, I recently sampled a 39.8% Khalifa Mints strain grown by a popular brand based in San Francisco that, for me, took all of the fun out of smoking weed. One pipe hit of the Mints was one too many. I napped instead of going for a planned beach walk, on a rare sunny day. Though I’ve never sampled heroin, I felt like I had smoked heroin-lite. I even had a hangover (stoneover?) the next day. This was a new thing for me and a sign that this kind of weed might also have serious addictive properties. Yuck.
I made a goal for the future. Never smoke any pot that contains over 20% THC. I started doing some research by calling some friends that work in dispensaries near me, and asked if they carried anything sub-20%. In the Seattle cannabis market, the shop closest to me had two sub-20 strains for sale, out of a total of 62 strains currently available for purchase. Two! A shop I called in West Seattle (not Canna West Seattle), had just three out of a total of 91 strains available for purchase. Minus one funky batch of Doc & Yeti’s Forbidden Fruit (Indica) that measured out at 14% THC content, my only sub-20 purchase options from these two ‘stores’ were sativa strains.
Where has customer choice gone? Why are those who buy and sell legal cannabis forcing high dosage strains down consumers’ collective throats? If I go to any liquor store to buy a six pack of pilsners, I also have the option to purchase some Wild Turkey, or worse Everclear, but since I don’t want to die or end up in a coma from a simple cocktail, I skip the Everclear. That’s my prerogative as a customer and since the liquor store is just as excited to sell me light beer as it is hard alcohol, it doesn’t limit customer’s choice. Rather, it enables them.
A Visit to Canna West
Similarly, when I visit Canna West to purchase some of Raven Grass’ Panama Red (14%), I skip browsing the high-percentage hybrid flower strains, and walk right on by the Rosins and Shatters without even acknowledging their existence. No one is forcing me to buy trendy high percentage weed at Canna West. Maybe because it is one of the few dispensaries left in the Seattle area that owns its own destiny and is therefore able to offer more customer choice than a franchise? Its selection of sub-20% flower is robust in comparison to the shops I researched in the Seattle cannabis market.
Canna’s friendly budtenders shared some insight with me. The THC percentage is only a portion of what really goes into the actual experience. Some strains, even with high THC percentages may not actually be as stoney as other strains with THC percentages that range in the teens. That’s because the type of strain, its actual terpene content and other cannabinoids play a big part in the experience too. We’ll break that down even more in another blog.
Canna took the time to show me a variety of products with a range of THC percentages, and helped me select some premium flower with THC percentages I felt comfortable selecting. They really cared more that my personal experience with cannabis was exceptional rather than selling me a trendy product.
As the legal pot market evolves in the state of Washington, we are seeing more hedge-fund owned, franchised dispensaries dot the map. Fewer dispensaries are owned by small business people who live in the neighborhoods they serve. If you care about customer choice and don’t want to spend the next 20 years smoking the equivalent of Budweiser, because nothing else is available, then seek out dispensaries that are owned by real people and skip the franchises. I feel like they just want to get you stoned. Really stoned.
*Based on my research of the Seattle cannabis market, conducted for personal reasons and not motivated or paid for by Canna West Seattle, it also only covered West Seattle, SODO and Burien. That being said, in the Seattle cannabis market, Canna West easily offers the largest selection of sub-20% cannabis flower for sale in those areas. Keep in mind too, terpenes play a huge role in the story of how a particular strain may affect one person versus the next. So my sub-20% lifestyle is hardly as scientific as it could be. Perhaps that is the next step? Incorporating the effects of terpenes? And possibly a future blog post? Stay tuned.