Friday, October 06, 2017

An Introduction To Anchorage's Cannabis Market Place - Great Northern Cannabis

Although some people think that going to college in the 1960s, attending the Monterey Pop Music festival,  teaching as a Peace Corps volunteer, and owning a VW camper certified me as a hippie, I really wasn't.  My drug use in those days was limited to occasional hits offered by friends.  I found marijuana preferable to alcohol, but neither were ever big parts of my life.  Furthermore, it was illegal and I am basically a law-abiding person. Generally if we don't like a law, we should change it, not break it.  Smoking pot was not important enough for me to consider civil disobedience.  Injustice?  Yes.  Pot?  No.

So, many years later, I find myself in a new world of legal cannabis here in Alaska.  I'm actively observing my brain's reorganization as old conditioned strictures get reshaped.  I never really thought that smoking an occasional joint was wrong.  I didn't  feel guilty when offered a puff.  But when I was in high school I never heard of anyone smoking pot.  It was still legally and mentally forbidden.  It was only during my college years that people I knew started experimenting.  And by the time I was married with kids and a job I liked, marijuana wasn't important enough to risk any of that.

So now we have a dozen or so cannabis shops in town and I decided as part of my cultural reeducation I should blog about legal pot in Anchorage.  J and I did look into one shop a month or so ago.  It was right next door to a new restaurant we were trying out and so on our way back to the car, we looked into Enlightenment.  It was surprisingly clean and the guy who checked our ID's was very friendly and was eager to gently and respectfully (dare I use this word?) enlighten us.

Click to enlarge and focus
Last week I finally went on line and made a list of all the cannabis shops in town - at least that I could find online.  And yesterday I started my field work.  After a lunch meeting down town I walked over to Great Northern Cannabis and Alaska Fireweed.

Great Northern Cannabis

It sits downtown on 4th Ave right in the heart of tourist Anchorage.  The visitor center log cabin is right across the street.

It opens into a lobby where you get your ID checked and they sell non-cannabis products - pipes, bongs, t-shirts, etc.

I told Kelly I was a blogger and wanted to report on marijuana shops and she couldn't have been nicer or more patient with my questions.

I really didn't have many prepared questions.  The main one was:  "What is the Big Mac of pot shops?"  She wasn't sure what I was asking so I had to explain I wanted to know what the most popular product was.

"Deals," she said.  We have regular deals and people want them because they're cheaper.
"Next - the highest THC percentage."

OK, so there isn't one thing.  Rather it's price and high.

Kelly told me they're open from 10am to midnight (well, they start shutting down about 11:50pm) seven days a week.   There were a number of glass pipes under glass in the counter and I asked about glass blowers.  (I broke the stem of an old wine glass from my mom and I've been looking to see if a glass blower can fix it.)  She said, yes, there are a lot of glass blowers.

She suggested I go on in to the main part of the store, where I met Olivia.  She couldn't have been more helpful.

All the concentrates and flowers in the shop is grown at their shop in South Anchorage.  Edibles come from Frozen Buds in Fairbanks.  They are starting to get stuff from Momo's Bakery as well

Then she started showing me the products.  You can see in the picture some clear plastic containers.  From left to right are two with 3.5 grams (1/8 ounce).  Then there is one with coffee.  My notebook and pen.  Then there's what looks like a little white pill vial.  That's what you take your pot home in.  The vial isn't in any of the other pictures, so I wanted to point that out now.

Here's a closer look of  the left side. She'd pulled White Widow and Pineapple Chunk out for me to check.

On the right is the coffee that you use to "cleanse your palate" between sniffings.

I've heard about cleansing a palate between tasting different wines, but isn't that in your mouth?  Can you do that for fragrance too?  The Roasterie explains the use of coffee at fragrance counters to 'cleanse the nasal palate."  So I guess it works for noses too.

Now let's look at this container a little closer.

There's this pickle shaped part with lots of holes.  In the pictures above, this part is protected with a black rubbery cover.  Here's where you can smell the terpenes - the part that gives the smell, Olivia explained.  Olivia had me sniff a few samples to compare those with a lemony scent from the others.  I have a pretty good nose, but it was hard to get the lemon scent.  The lemon scent indicates a product that will decrease hunger she said.  (Another medical benefit of pot - lose weight - I thought, but pot's supposed to make you hungry.)

The Pineapple Chunk will make you light headed.  She said more about some making you relaxed and feeling good, but not necessarily high.  But my notes didn't catch all the details.

The labels tell us the THC percentage and the OBD percentage.

THC (from Leafly):
"tetrahydrocannabinol, is the chemical compound in cannabis responsible for a euphoric high."
Olivia explained that CBD is the part of marijuana that has the medical benefits.  At home I got a little more information from a different Leafly page:
"Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of many cannabinoid molecules produced by Cannabis, second only to THC in abundance. These plant-derived cannabinoids, or phytocannabinoids (phyto = plant in Greek), are characterized by their ability to act on the cannabinoid receptors that are part of our endocannabinoid system. While THC is the principal psychoactive component of Cannabis and has certain medical uses, CBD stands out because it is both non-psychoactive and displays a broad range of potential medical applications. These properties make it especially attractive as a therapeutic agent."
Above the sniffing holes is a magnifying glass to allow you a closer look at the nugget, the flower,  as Olivia explained, or 'the bug.'  Here's my camera's look through the magnifying glass.

Again, I'm finding my notes didn't capture everything, but I believe Olivia told me that at Great Northern Cannabis, since the grow all their own marijuana, they also don't include any trimmings with their nuggets, just pure flowers.  The magnifying glass helps you see that, I guess.  If you know what you're looking for.

Now for a closer look at the other side of my notebook in the picture above with Olivia.

By this time Sara had joined Olivia explaining things to me.  Here are the two of them.

The White Widow and Pineapple Chunk shown in a previous picture contained 3.5 grams or 1/8 of an ounce.  The legal limit you can buy at one time is one ounce.  In this picture below we have 1 gram of Bubble Gummer and a one gram roll.  I also heard it called 'rolled.'  What I know as a joint.

Then we got to the deals, what Kelly had said are the biggest sellers.  The have a different $10 gram items on different days.  They also have PFD* deals (what merchant doesn't?).  Here's an example of some of the current deals one of their signs in the shop.

You can see this bigger and clearer if you click on the picture.  But even then you can't see the headings in the dark purple above the prices.  The one on the left is for 3.5 grams.  Next comes 1 gram.  On the right is "1 gram pre rolled."

You can also sign up for "Splango" by leaving a phone number of email.  After 10 purchases, you get a 20% discount coupon sent to your device.  She said they send announcements of deals, but not many.  

I also asked if this was a good job and a good place to work.  Both bud tenders, as they are called, enthusiastically assured me it was.  Good wages and discounts and tips.  They didn't get specific about wages, though said it was above minimum wage ($9.80/hour in Alaska as of January 1, 2017).
I asked about tips.  Olivia said $1 is good, sometimes someone puts in a five.  So it's not 20% like for a waiter, I asked.  No, she's pleased someone appreciates her enough to leave a dollar.

And what does it take to become a bud tender.  Here's where Sara took over as Olivia helped a customer.  WELL, first you need a marijuana handlers card.  You take a test online for $65 plus tax, she said, to get certified.  Then you have to take a $50 certified check (no personal checks or cash) downtown on Wednesdays from 9am-12pm to get your card.  On the right is Sara's.  (I smudged out her last name, birthdate, and MHP#.)

But that's not all.  You also need to get a food handler's card, but that's only $10.  You take that test online too.  They have to be renewed every three years.

Olivia said she got her job here because she knew someone who said to put in an application.  All the positions were now filled.

I went to two places yesterday.  The other one, Alaska Fireweed is a couple blocks down the street.  I'll do that soon. [UPDATE Oct 8:  It's up here now.]   I think this is more than enough for one post.  I really got a lot of information here and I probably won't have to get into so much detail at the other places, except to see if their reports are consistent with what I learned here.  And yes, both places, said sure to my requests to take pictures.

There was one more thing:  Checking ID's.  Olivia and Sara said you need a photo id with your birthdate and an expiration date.  A drivers license or a passport is good.  Student ID's aren't because they don't have birthdate.  I thought the reason they wanted to see a drivers license was to check if someone was barred from purchasing alcohol.  No, they said, that doesn't apply to marijuana.  If not, then someone like me who came of age 50 years ago really shouldn't have to show my ID.  It's clear I'm old enough.  But they've passed their marijuana handler permit test, so I'm sure they're right.

I didn't take a shot of the whole shop.  I did want to note that it's not in any way like the seedy head shops used to be.  And they had two ATM machines inside.

*for non-Alaskans, PFD = Permanent Fund Dividends, the checks Alaskans get in the Fall as the dividend on their share of the Permanent Fund where some of our oil revenue is saved.  The PFD disbursements began yesterday. (I couldn't find a link to the specific news item, so over time this link won't get to the disbursement announcement.)

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