More than half a decade after recreational marijuana was legalized in Washington, there’s no shortage of places to get it in Whatcom County. But some retail shops rise above the rest, and Smoking Crow Cannabis Dispensary is one of those places.

Located at 4264 Pacific Highway (about a mile from Costco), Smoking Crow has quickly earned a reputation for first-rate customer service and a finely curated selection of cannabis products. Since its December 2017 opening, the retail store has filled a niche in the local market by distinguishing itself as an elegant, education-based dispensary.

Crows are communal animals that find strength in numbers. Smoking Crow believes in the same principle of power amongst community in helping people learn about cannabis. Photo credit: Matt Benoit

From a relaxing armchair reception area – where customers can even play chess or guitar, if they want – to beautiful carpets on top of fine wood flooring, Smoking Crow provides a neat, relaxed setting to learn about cannabis and how it can best fit your needs, whether you’re a frequent consumer or a first-time user.

Dominic Ippolito, Smoking Crow’s general manager, says a lot of language in the cannabis industry overlooks the complexity of marijuana and the specifics of what various strains can do for a person.

“People just say, ‘sativa,’ and ‘indica,’ and ‘I want to get really high,’” he says. “We’re trying to change that conversation to ‘How are you looking for this to benefit you? How can this help you?’”

Smoking Crow’s retail store is located at 4364 Pacific Highway, just off Interstate 5 between Bellingham and Ferndale. Photo credit: Matt Benoit

Ippolito moved to Washington from Hawaii in 2016, and wasn’t looking to work in the cannabis industry. But when he saw firsthand how marijuana could help people with medical conditions ranging from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to opiate addiction, he decided to get involved. Ippolito began his tenure at Smoking Crow as a budtender, and now manages a team of six others passionate about helping people make informed choices on cannabis consumption.

“If someone’s looking for something in particular, we can help guide them on that,” he says. “If they’re not exactly sure what they’re looking for, we’re here and ready to help them however we can.”

Flair decorates the lanyard and shirt of Smoking Crow general manager Dominic Ippolito. Photo credit: Matt Benoit

Smoking Crow is also a medically endorsed dispensary, selling cannabis products that can help manage everything from insomnia and anxiety to chronic pain. The dispensary has also cultivated great relationships with its suppliers, including local marijuana producer High End Farms. The Bellingham-based Tier 1 grow, which began in September 2017, produces nearly 500 pounds of marijuana each year.    

High End’s involvement with Smoking Crow began at a tradeshow in Seattle’s Kush Marketplace, and as Ippolito tells it, was love at first scent.

“We smelled a strain from basically across the room, and we were like, ‘What was that?’” he recalls. “It was the sour tangie.”

In talking with High End’s people, they were surprised to learn that, five months after opening in the same city, they hadn’t heard of High End sooner. Smoking Crow received samples soon after, and quickly brought their products into the store.

Smoking Crow provides a welcoming atmosphere to learn about and purchase the right cannabis for you, says general manager Dominic Ippolito. Photo credit: Matt Benoit

“We were just very impressed with everything they had going on,” Ippolito says. “This is a really good partnership.”

Haider Tareen, a former engineer who runs High End with a team of close friends and family, including longtime buddy Matthew McCreary, points out the professionalism that Smoking Crow provides to the community.

“They’re a very well-educated store,” he says. “They’ll help guide you in the direction of what you’re actually looking for. They involve themselves in the deeper side of cannabis.”

That deeper side includes a focus on terpenes – organic chemical compounds found throughout nature, including in many everyday plants, herbs and fruits. In cannabis, terpenes are responsible for the unique smell of each strain, and are found inside trichomes – the small, frosty-looking glands of resin that dot the surface of cannabis buds, flowers and leaves.

“The science behind cannabis is really starting to get deep into understanding more about terpenes, and their work in combination with cannabinoids to have a medical benefit on your body,” Haider says. Inside Smoking Crow, a terpene diffuser steams fragrant profiles into the air near the counter. Nearby, a small table provides customers an informational crash course in “Terpene 101.”

Smoking Crow also had their employees tour High End’s processing farm, something that doesn’t often happen with teams at many retail stores.

“There’s often a disconnect between growing processes and what’s happening on the retail side,” Ippolito says. “That’s why education is so important.”

Having educated budtenders, says McCreary, is especially critical when so many stores cycle rapidly through employees.

“The majority of budtenders don’t see their 30-day anniversary at some of these stores,” McCreary says. “A store like Smoking Crow actually keeps up on it. They actually have their budtenders here long enough to train them and teach them about what cannabis is today, not what it was on the black market.”

Smoking Crow attracts a wide variety of customers, and does about a quarter of its business in high-end product from places like High End. With continuing growth in their area of Whatcom County, Ippolito expects a bright future for the store. 

“It’s an interesting place to be,” he says of Smoking Crow’s location along Interstate 5, between Bellingham and Ferndale. “I think it’s going to get better and better as time goes on.”

So whether you’re looking for flowers, concentrates, topicals, tinctures, or other products, Smoking Crow has something to pique your interest. Stop in, explore and ask questions, and don’t forget to say hi to their unofficial mascot, a friendly pug named Yodaface.

With more and more people interested in trying cannabis not just to try it, but to find a positive purpose for it in their lives, Smoking Crow is always ready to help. Because here, cannabis and community go hand in hand.

Smoking Crow is open Monday through Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, including memberships, menus and daily/weekly deals, see their website.

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