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John Batchelor

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Why this Seattle pot shop is allowed next to a youth center

Draze protests Uncle Ike's Pot Shop in Seattle. (Naomi Ishisaka)


Listen to the full interview with Seattle hip-hop artist Draze above

Almost as soon as it opened up, Uncle Ike’s shop in Seattle’s Central District, the pot store has drawn criticism. On April 20, that criticism erupted, once again, at its door with a protest, and local hip-hop artist Draze was among the crowd.

“The protest yesterday wasn’t really about Uncle Ike’s, we were trying to send a message to our elected officials and tell them this is not OK,” Draze told Tod Herman. “So we went out yesterday and shut down traffic for two or three hours to send a message that ‘Hey, this is happening in our community.’ And when traffic is messed up, maybe they’ll listen a little bit more to our cries.”

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Protestors blocked traffic around Uncle Ike’s and stood in front of its doorway. Their message is that the city and state officials need to enforce the law when it comes to marijuana regulations. Those regulations aim to steer pot shops away from places youth congregate, such as playgrounds. Draze argues that Uncle Ike’s is near multiple such places.

“There is one pot shop in the state of Washington that is within the legal 500 feet distance where children congregate – there’s a teen center directly across the street, less than 250 feet (from Uncle Ike’s),” he said. “It’s not OK for this community, or any community, to have to deal with that. We are all for people being able to sell marijuana or buy it. But how can we do this responsibly so our children don’t have to be exposed to this at a young age?”

Draze also notes that a church neighbors the shop and that church hosts a variety of youth events. Though, such institutions are not included in Washington’s pot law. That is something Draze and other protestors want the state it address – the inclusion of churches, mosques, synagogues and other religious locations to be included in pot shop buffer zones. After all, Draze said, the spirit of the law was to keep pot shops away from children.

“Enforce the law of 500 feet and number two, be inclusive of these other places where children are,” Draze said.

“The church is literally 3 feet from the actual Uncle Ike’s,” he said. “I could stand at the church, spread my arms and touch Uncle Ike’s.”

Uncle Ike protesters have started an online petition through their Facebook page, Irony on 23rd to draw attention to the issue.

For Herman, there are many issues at play: gentrification, racism, law enforcement.

“I’m a guy that questions a lot of the claims about institutional racism — not all of them, but I know it exists,” Herman said. “In this case, I think it’s a passive case of racism. I think people in Seattle are so comfy going home and vaping weed in front of their TV watching NFL on the weekends, that they don’t understand that your community is different, and that churches are a big part of that community.”

“Do you think Seattle tends to look past how drugs have affected the African American community and urban communities?” he asked Draze.

“Absolutely,” Draze responded immediately, further noting that the Central District of Seattle has been in recovery from crack in recent years. The community has also suffered disproportionate arrests and jailing for drug-related crimes despite only comprising 4 percent of the Seattle population.

Beyond that, Draze said that he doesn’t want to fight against marijuana or it’s legal status, rather, he wants it to be managed and sold responsibly. He argues that if Seattle doesn’t do it right, then other cities across the United States who consider legalizing marijuana will follow in its misteps.

“We also want to recognize the dangers of it. It still can be a gateway drug and it can affect youth,” he said.

“The rest of this country is focused on Settle and Colorado and seeing how this is going to be done. And we are not doing it right,” he said. “Let’s come together as a community, get all the rules and policies correct, so as this moves into other cities — Chicago, Philadelphia — we could be a positive template on how to integrate marijuana stores into communities.”

Draze has produced a song just about the issues surrounding the Central District, including Uncle Ike’s.

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