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Marijuana tourism: No smoking allowed, but a Tacoma entrepreneur hosts a busload of curious riders

Golf has its PGA Tour, the French have the Tour de France, and the City of Destiny can now officially boast its own Tacoma Marijuana Tour.

The inaugural edition arrived Saturday afternoon as 20 adults riding a school bus visited three retail marijuana shops and an artisan glass store.

Of the 20, only five bought pot.

There was no smoking allowed, but tortilla chips were among the swag in a VIP gift bag.

The tour wasn’t so much about consuming the product as it was to learn about the law, the infant cannabis industry and the properties of a substance now legal for general consumption.

According to organizer Angela Jossy, who has led Tacoma tours for more than four years, “We achieved our goal to get the information out there on a subject that was once taboo.”

Otherwise known as the “Duchess of Downtown,” Jossy also directs Tacoma-area tours featuring wine, beer, small-business shopping, the downtown underground and the local art scene.

On Saturday, the subject was pot.

Noel Roberts, a partner at the retail cannabis store Mary Mart on Sixth Avenue and self-described as “an old-time stoner,” led the tour, answering questions and offering his perspective as a marijuana retailer.

He explained the difference between sativa and indica strains of cannabis, and he said that the average age of his customers is 54, which was close to the average among Saturday’s tourists.

“There’s a lot of returning smokers,” he said. “We’re creating a whole new clientele.”

Among other facts, he said the supply of marijuana from growers has finally begun to meet demand, and where he once had difficulty contacting producers to buy the product, now he receives “five to eight calls a day from growers wanting to sell.”

Of the marijuana consumed in the state, he estimated that only 5 percent is sold in retail stores, with up to 75 percent sold in medical dispensaries and perhaps 20 percent sold by street dealers.

Of the supply available, he said growers in the state are using only some 10 percent of the 8 million square-foot canopy sanctioned by the state Liquor Control Board, which governs the production and sale of retail cannabis products.

“It’s such a trip that it’s legal here now,” said Desiree Flerchinger of Tacoma. “This tour is tripping me out.”

Kelly Magneson is a member of the family that owns Silika, a glass-art shop in Tacoma’s Opera Alley.

“I think this is a wonderful idea,” she said as the tour group arrived. “It gives us a chance to interact with people who might have been intimidated to come in.”

Mindful that retail shops are not allowed by law to discuss any possible medical benefits of cannabis, Jossy had arranged for the group to meet with naturopath Dr. Kristin Neibling of Green Wellness during the stop at Silika.

Among the questions, Sonia Jewell of Tacoma asked Neibling about treatment for a relative with a terminal illness.

“That’s one of the reasons I came on the tour,” Jewell said. “I wanted to learn more — what’s available to comfort her. It’s helping a lot.”

Neibling discussed the therapeutic benefits of CBD, one of the cannabinoid compounds within marijuana. She also discussed the various ways marijuana is consumed (smoking, edibles, vaporizing) and the various effects of each process.

Adam Schmidt, owner of Clear Choice Cannabis in South Tacoma, welcomed the group to his retail outlet.

“I think it’s a great idea,” he said. “I like the fact that it’s not a tour for stoners. It’s getting the everyday person involved.”

Tacoma actor Darryl Roberts made a pair of purchases on Saturday, spending a total of $109.

“It’s the first pot ever, buying it legally,” he said.

“I’ve gone on many of the art-bus tours. I think (Jossy) is doing a wonderful job. It’s more information than I expected,” he said. “It’s not like walking into a tattoo shop. It feels wholesome, welcoming.”

“Everything we do is to support local businesses. It creates a better community,” Jossy said as the tour ended.

“It was educational,” said tourist Mary Sudar. “I knew nothing about this. What impressed me was how professional the stores were.”

“Tacoma’s first marijuana tour,” she added. “This is another step in Tacoma’s history.”

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