Inside America's Only Government-Run Pot Dispensary

It’s barely been three months since Don Stevens stopped being mayor of North Bonneville, Washington, and he’s already feeling distraught about his legacy. We’re sitting on the misty banks of the Columbia River, nestled in a lush gorge about two miles off the Pacific Crest Trail, when the 61-year-old lights a joint, takes a hit, passes it to me, and lets out a forlorn sigh.

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“I almost feel how Obama must be feeling, you know? Because like, this new guy just comes in and starts wrecking everything you’ve done,” Stevens says, his grey curls fraying in the wind. “The mayor and some of these city council members, they’re haters! They hate cannabis.”

During his tenure as mayor, Stevens led the city of North Bonneville into a unique experiment: opening the first (and only) government-owned marijuana store in the entire United States. In 2015, when the North Bonneville Cannabis Corner first opened in a green tin shack on a quiet street, the retailer made national headlines, inspiring everyone from Fox News to the Washington Post to come peruse their city-subsidized buds. It’s a powerful idea in an era when politicians at all levels are thinking of the once-verboten intoxicant as a potential source of revenue. Instead of imposing an onerous local tax to squeeze legal weed businesses for extra cash, as other cities and counties across the country have done, why not just commandeer all of the profits outright? The city established a public development authority, like the kind that runs state-owned railways and lotteries, leased a building, obtained a license, and voilà! Government weed.

But three years later,

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