I’ve written about the frustrating hypocrisy of living in a city and state that have ravenous appetites for the tax and licensing revenue brought in by the production and sale of cannabis, but that still cling to repressive and absurd rules about where people are allowed to consume it (after they’ve paid a hefty 20 percent tax on their purchase). I’ve made the comparison to the craft beer industry—how well would it have fared in its nascent days if you could buy a microbrew but not be allowed to drink it anywhere except inside a private home, or in a tent shielded from public view?
Consumption laws are unfair and senseless, impacting the growth that cannabis provides as an economic engine, and devastating those living in Section 8 housing, where consuming in your home can lead to eviction.
So I’m a little embarrassed it’s taken me so long to check out the NW Cannabis Club, something for which I recently made amends by making three visits in close succession. I had a good time, and as far as I know, my vaping inside a structure that was not my home did not result in an uptick in crime in the surrounding neighborhood, one of the supposedly dire concerns that keep other such businesses from opening.
Located on Southeast Powell, NW Cannabis Club defines the term “nondescript.” You might mistake it for a bar, or, based upon the lack of windows, a strip club. Nope. It’s a members-only club where the hardest thing you can order is a cup of Keurig-brewed coffee.
On my first visit in October, I paid my one-time membership fee of $20, which garnered me a nifty membership card and an explanation of some basic rules: No cannabis is sold, so don’t ask. No alcohol is allowed, although an array of non-alcoholic beverages and snacks are available for purchase. It was explained that for future visits, I would pay an entry fee of between $5 and $10, based on whatever was happening on that day.
Once checked in, I entered a very large room with a long bar and a small stage, with numerous chairs, tables, and couches spread throughout. A flight of stairs takes you down to a basement lounge that looks like every well appointed rec room I got high in during high school—except, of course, I definitely didn’t try cannabis until I was 21, so strike that last part. There are e-nails, vaporizers, and Volcanoes spread throughout, along with plentiful alcohol wipes. A spacious deck is outside for warmer weather, or you can try your luck at the foosball and pool tables. TVs are on but not paid much mind.
I’ve been to two of their evening events—a product demo night and another for Grow magazine—and although bustling, it was never so packed as to be unmanageable. On a recent Sunday morning, I found fewer than 10 members filling the seats.
I spoke with owner Michael Keysor, who opened the club in October 2015 after his NW Cannabis Market in Seattle was shut down. “It housed medical marijuana patient providers for nearly five years,” he said of the Seattle operation, “providing safe access for more than 2.5 million patient visits, and a safe space for more 600 providers.”
NWCC has 9,600 members, and expects to hit 10,000 before the end of the year. The club produces 10 events per month, and their 40 business members bring another five or six.
I asked Keysor how they are allowed to do this—was it a grandfathered permit? He simply replied, “No comment.” Fair enough. Much like magnets, I don’t always need to know how things work to enjoy them. I’m just glad they exist.
I wish more clubs like this one did. Oregon embraces its alcohol industry in a fierce bear hug, with more beer/wine/cider/bathtub gin fests per year than I can count. And there are no shortage of businesses where I can walk in and have an adult beverage or six. So the regulatory agencies don’t want me smoking on the street? Fix the damn laws, then, or stop taxing and then discriminating against those who paid them. For now, NW Cannabis Club provides a much-needed service for those who can’t consume their weed at home.
NW Cannabis Club, 1195 SE Powell, nwcannabismarket.com