Editor’s note: This is one in a series of articles on the legalization of marijuana, produced in partnership with the 2015 Carnegie-Knight News21 national student reporting project.
PORTLAND, Ore. — Jon Tester and Jeff Myers come dressed to work each day in newsboy caps, round-rimmed glasses and suspenders — plus a bowtie for Tester and a dark buttoned shirt for Myers. Together, they own the Brooklyn Holding Company, a medical dispensary in the guise of a 1920s speakeasy.
“From the time that you open the door, you walk into a time warp, you are in a turn-of-the-century speakeasy with a few modern upgrades,” Tester said of their store in the heart of Portlandia.
Tester and Myers said they attract patients because Oregonians’ taste in marijuana compares to their taste in beer — craft is best. Now that legal recreational sales are on the horizon, the two are preparing to open their doors to many more discerning customers.
This July, Oregon joined Colorado, Washington and Alaska as the only states to have legalized recreational marijuana. Possession and home growing of marijuana became legal July 1, and the state will soon allow dispensaries to begin making some recreational sales.
Southeastern Oregon sits on the northern tip of the Emerald Triangle, a region famous for growing potent (and often illegal) marijuana. “Oregon has built a reputation over the last 20 years for having this phenomenal cannabis,” said dispensary owner and grower Case Van Dorne. “People have started to really realize that Oregon is a place of such a high-grade product.”
But as Oregon Liquor Control Commission draws up the rules for the new recreational market, it has heard one consistent request from local growers and growers-to-be: Keep Oregon’s marijuana industry indie.
“They were very vocal about wanting the growing operations in Oregon to be small boutique type operations, much like the winery business was when it started in Oregon,” said Tom Towslee, communications director for the commission’s recreational marijuana program.
The duo at Brooklyn Holding Company believe that Portland deserves an artisanal weed experience. They plan to control every step of marijuana production, from seed to sale, in order to maintain a premium reputation.
“The whole concept of Brooklyn Holding was about trying to set ourselves apart from what’s already out there,” Myers said. “We’ve got to pay attention to quality, we have to pay attention to branding, we got to pay attention to how it feels when you are in here.”
“I really see the idea of the craft cannabis dispensary, and craft cannabis in general catching on and staying around,” Tester said.
Video by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone. Words by Nick Swyter.