Article by Yasmin Tayag, Inverse
On Thanksgiving, most people show their appreciation for the year’s harvest by gluttonously stuffing it down their own gullets. But not the staff at 4:20 Friendly, a cannabis shop in Spokane, Washington. This year, these marijuana heroes are giving thanks for their green bounty by giving away $36,000 worth of free weed.
“There’s also a lot of people that really need it that don’t have the money to be able to afford it,” Carol Ehrhart, the shop’s owner, told local news station KXLY. By exploiting a loophole in Senate Bill 5052, a state law passed in April that made medical marijuana much more difficult — and expensive — to obtain, Ehrhart plans to donate a free ounce of weed to the first 180 medical marijuana card holders that show up at her store’s doorstep on Wednesday. Her wily law-skirting strategy illustrates the lengths many medical weed dealers and users will have to go to as they adapt to a legislation-dense legal weed landscape — and represents a kind-spirited form of legal protest.
Under Senate Bill 5052, Washington’s mostly unregulated medical marijuana industry was reorganized under the state’s recreational marijuana industry rules, which severely curtailed opportunities for users to access medical marijuana cheaply. Medical weed dispensaries were folded into existing retail stores, patient possession limits were reduced from 24 ounces to three ounces, and the number of household plants people are permitted to grow was cut down from 15 to six. In addition, the law forbids businesses from advertising weed as free — but, as Ehrhart noted, it doesn’t prohibit donating marijuana to users.
She worked together with a marijuana farmer named Robert Vernon, owner of nearby BBB Farms, to make his Thanksgiving weed miracle a reality. “First time I read it in the rules, that a retail store can donate to qualified patients, I’ve been wanting to do it,” Vernon told KXLY. By donating $36,000 of weed to Ehrhart, who plans to hand out the donations to people with legitimate medical marijuana cards, he’s going to make a lot of Washingtonians happy this Thanksgiving.
Small business owners like Vernon and Ehrhart, like many people in the marijuana industry, must come to terms with the growth of Big Marijuana and its implications for their jobs and accessibility to cannabis, especially as legalization spreads across the U.S. But rather than focusing on profits — though there’s little doubt 4:20 Friendly will see a boom in loyalty post-holiday — the pair appear to be putting their energy into the community-building aspect of the weed industrythat has long been a core pillar of marijuana advocacy groups.