Fading Raymond WA Becomes Port For Pot Entrepreneurs

WASHINGTON:  After voters legalized marijuana in Washington, Seattle nightlife entrepreneur Marcus Charles went hunting for a depressed timber town.

Owner of the Crocodile Café and co-founder of the Capitol Hill Block Party, Charles wanted to jump into the emerging pot industry. His first impulse was to find a city with vacant industrial space and a hearty appetite for new jobs. That led him away from the booming communities around Puget Sound.

His first stop was Shelton in sleepy Mason County. But Shelton’s elected officials were divided about hosting pot merchants in the hamlet. So Charles moved on to the Port of Willapa Harbor in Raymond, a city of 2,900, about 25 miles south of Aberdeen.

Most young people leave Raymond — where Nirvana played its first gig at a house party — after high school and don’t come back, said Port Manager Rebecca Chaffee. “We were a logging and fishing town and those jobs have largely disappeared,” Chaffee said.

But Charles has become a pied piper of pot producers and Raymond a magnet for marijuana businesses, with pending applications for 31 state-growing licenses on Port land. And that’s made Raymond emblematic of job-hungry communities embracing legal pot merchants while more affluent areas such as King County’s Redmond Ridge turned them away.