By Meghan Walker, July 2011
When I agreed to meet the Cannabis Farmers Market’s PR representative Kristi Hamilton outside of Om Culture studio in Wallingford a few weeks ago, I was pretty clueless about what I’d find inside. After getting over the powerful smell of buds that washed over me as I walked inside, I took stock of the room, and realized there must be about 40 tables setting up jars of pot and cookies and brownies galore.
Hamilton gave me my press pass, and quickly passed me off to another market worker. He then led me to Kathy Parkins’ table, where she was pulling out box after box of lollipops and treats; all pot-infused. She was cheery and social, and I felt like I could be at any regular Sunday market. Only instead of broccoli and carrots, Parkins was selling medical marijuana.
My interview with Parkins was a great introduction to the market. She told me about how the market helps people in the community come together and network. The whole time we were talking, I felt like I was taking part in some great social experiment: what happens when you put thousands of dollars worth of pot in one room, without criminal consequences?
People seemed happy. Reggae music was blasting in the background, people were passing out joints, and the vendors selling edibles were setting out samples. I felt like I had a broken record in my head: Am I in America? Isn’t pot illegal?
I spoke to a dozen or so vendors, and was blown away by the diversity. At one table, a woman named Beth had what looked like a gourmet food display. Beautiful pizzas, crackers, and candies were overflowing from her table, and she came across as a young woman with a knack for creating artful food. Across the aisle, a sweet middle-age couple was selling colorful cake-pops in flavors like snickerdoodle and fudge. A couple rows over, a couple muscle-clad young men were selling pot from about five different jars on their table. If I didn’t know better, I would’ve thought they worked at GNC selling supplements.
The experience was unlike most reporting assignments I’ve been on. I felt like I’d been given a free pass and a glimpse into a world that doesn’t seem possible in the U.S. I also felt out of place with my camera and notebook in plain view.
As I snapped away, a loud voice boomed out over the room. “No cameras, no cell phones,” the voice said. My press pass was the only thing giving me confidence at that point.
Some people were more than happy to have their photos taken and be interviewed. Others politely declined, saying they weren’t quite ready to be associated with the medical marijuana community. I tried to be sensitive; some of these people have serious illnesses. On the other hand, I found out just how easy it is to get a recommendation. Johnny from CannaPi was one of the most energetic vendors I met, and he looked appalled when I told him I didn’t have my recommendation. “Aah we can fix that!” he said. “Just come to the dispensary, we do recommendations there!” I couldn’t believe it. And, it made me wonder: just how many users really need it? And how do you prove that to your doctor?
It was incredibly interesting and eye-opening to spend a day at the market, and I can’t wait to go back to fill in the blanks and meet more vendors.
This story was produced for Next Door Media by students in the University of Washington’s Entrepreneurial Journalism course.