SEATTLE -- Ben Schroeter is a salesman at heart. An unabashed, unrepentant career pot salesman.
"I started selling pot at Rainier Beach High School in 1974 when I was 14 years old," he said, bagging up a few ounces of bud he had just procured from a grower Wednesday.
One would think the opening of new, legal pot stores in Washington would have him weighing other options, but not so.
"I’ve always said if the government can put me out of business by legalizing pot, then I’m all for it."
Schroeter is so open about his dealing that he has a Facebook page, and even hands out business cards. He was at Tuesday’s opening of Seattle's first pot shop, Cannabis City, and selling to people waiting in line because his dope costs less than half of the new retail prices.
"And I always insist that what I sell is a top notch product," he said.
The state says as more stores open up, prices will go down and put the likes of Schroeter out of business. But unlike seedy street dealers, Schoeter considers himself more along the lines of a wine boutique, where cannabis connoisseurs will go for specialized products and support their local dealer.
"For the same reason that people don’t go to Walmart, they like to support their little local shop," he said.
All black market dealers are banking on the belief that police will leave them alone. The Seattle Police Department’s policy on pot is a bit hazy, but a spokesman told KING 5 Wednesday that unless someone is dealing or using marijuana in an egregious way – like around kids at a park -- they will likely let it go. Violators would be issued the equivalent of a traffic ticket.
Schroeter said he experienced that first hand when approached by police while dealing outside a Seattle concert recently.
"I thought that they had taken all of my pot, but when they gave me my bag back they left me almost all of my pot," he said. He wasn't issued a citation.
Schroeter isn’t getting rich by any means. In fact, these days he’s using his buddy’s beat up sedan to make deliveries because he can’t afford to fix his transmission. And while he campaigned for the passage of I-502, including the regulation and taxation of pot, he doesn’t adhere to any of it.
Federal authorities have said they will leave Washington largely alone as long as marijuana is kept away from children and off the black market. Critics say dealers like Schroeter are undermining the very thing they've all worked so hard for. Schroeter disagrees.
"I think we’ve gotten to that point where we have an attitude toward things that it’s not going to be a big issue.”
On Wednesday an SPD spokesman said the department's main marijuana focus will be on curbing impaired driving and keeping weed away from kids.
Schroeter likens black market dealing to selling fish on the docks. It's something that is regulated by the government, but people have just learned to accept a little bit of illegal activity if it benefits both parties.