As the first president of the United States George Washington said, “Make the most you can of the Indian Hemp seed and sow it everywhere.” Including the first president himself, the cannabis plant has been utilized by many people from all over the world for thousands of years. From being used to make textiles, paper, and medicine, its main use was not recreational throughout most of history (although that existed too). After the U.S. Controlled Substance Act of 1970 classified cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug, it was thrown into a category with the likes of heroin and ecstasy; a baffling thought to the one in four young adults enjoying the plant 50 years later. 33 of the 50 states currently have laws legalizing the use of marijuana to some extent, and 11 of those states have made the jump to making it available for recreational use for adults age 21 and over. Just a mere five years ago—2013—it was not recreationally legal anywhere in the United States; five years later and more than 20% of states have changed their tune. Cannabis being recreationalized created a higher demand for the product: que the marijuana dispensaries popping up left and right. And they have popped up quickly. According to Portland Business Journal reporter Pete Danko, there are 1,863 licensed recreational dispensaries in Oregon, and Corvallis alone counts for 10 of them.
The Hawaiian/East Asian father and son duo of Harold and Daniel Lareau operate two of the 10 dispensaries in Corvallis. By just looking at Daniel and Harold, you probably wouldn’t imagine just how kind hearted and compassionate they are. Harold is a sturdy looking man, covered from the neck down in tattoos, and always wearing some bling. Though not quite as covered in tattoos, Daniel seems an imposing figure as well, a wall of a man standing about six foot three; but both can usually found with smiles and positive attitudes. I have known Daniel for close to a decade, and he has always been a forward thinking, business minded, happy and friendly individual. Daniel has successfully carried those traits over to his business approach. By age 19, Daniel had created his own rubber bracelet movement (similar to the “Live Strong” wrist bands circa Lance Armstrong) with the logo “I ❤ TATTOOS”. He sold the enterprise for over six figures: not bad for someone who couldn’t even legally drink yet. Daniel then invested this money in starting up his own glass paraphernalia companies, Naked Mag and Diamond Glass, that have since spread into successful and growing multi-state endeavors.
Recreational marijuana use in Oregon has been seeing a steady rise since its legalization on July first, 2015 and it continues to grow yearly. The Lareaus have capitalized on the legalization, quickly becoming a leader amongst Corvallis cannabis dispensaries with their operation of the Green Room shops. “It’s amazing what normalizing something can do to a stigma in such a short period of time,” Daniel responded when asked his thoughts on the public response to marijuana legalization. The Lareaus had never seen an issue with marijuana use, even before it’s legalization. Before the Green Room, the Lareau family had already been in the head shop (a shop namely selling cannabis and tobacco paraphernalia) business for a while in the state of Oregon. For more than a decade, they have been running a head shop called Bad Habits across the street from Oregon State’s campus in Corvallis. In fact, Bad Habits was what brought the Lareau family to Corvallis from Colton, Oregon in the first place.
Back in 2004, an acquaintance of Harold’s was getting out of the glass selling business and passed the torch onto Harold. Harold acquired a van, a warehouse full of glass paraphernalia imported at ridiculously cheap wholesale prices from China, and a list of roughly 80 vendors to sell to. He received this all up front with the stipulation that the seller make costs back and that’s it. A year later, Harold had traversed the west coast and bumped his vendor list up to roughly 1,000 accounts, with Bad Habits in Corvallis being one of them. To make a long story short, the owner of Bad Habits was going through a divorce and wanted to move to Las Vegas but was tight on money. He asked Harold for some financial help in getting him to Vegas and in return Harold could have the shop. Done deal. Daniel was a 17-year-old high school junior at the time and had already been accepted to OSU and planned on attending; so, Harold sent Daniel to head the shop operations while he finished school. Eventually the family followed Daniel to Corvallis, but his parents weren’t extremely fond of the town and spent the next few years moving around and leaving operations to Daniel. They just so happened to move back right around the time that medical marijuana was becoming legal in Oregon in 2013.
Having run a head shop for years, opening a dispensary was right in line for the Lareaus. Harold was interested in joining the cannabis campaign in 2013, but Daniel was a bit worried about the seemingly precarious legality of the business. Medical marijuana was legal in Montana before Oregon, and Daniel had already capitalized on the market, opening 10 dispensaries and two marijuana growing operations in the years leading up to 2013. Business had run smoothly for a while, but eventually the FBI came knocking and provided a cease and desist order and Daniel’s main concern was that this may happen again. However, the regulations seemed more amenable in Oregon, so they decided to move forward in opening the dispensary: and their wallets. Bad Habits has been an extremely lucrative venture for the family, affording them enough income to sustain the whole family comfortably, and they did not want to jeopardize their shop by turning it into a start-up dispensary.
They decided to obtain a new location for the dispensary to avoid hindering the business flow of Bad Habits. The building they acquired on the corner of 9th and Kings, needed a lot of remodeling and needed to be brought up to regulatory code. After a lot of work and roughly $110,000 in expenses, they were there. But the money was worth it, and the shop looks amazing. The back side of the shop (facing the highway) is covered in a colorful, sprawling, intricate mural of an astronaut floating in space, easily snatching the attention of any passersby. The insides of both locations are laid out in fairly similar style: a large, open, and inviting waiting area with tasteful décor. The waiting area is surrounded on the walls by ceiling-to-floor glass display cases containing everything from small pipes and grinders, to high-end ornate pieces. The cannabis product selection area is in a separate room that sports waist high glass display cases under wrap around counters. The interiors are painted with warm and happy colors, providing the shops with healthy and relaxed atmospheres. The building renovations finished on October first of 2014, and just seven days later Harold opened the doors for business.
Aside from profitability, the Lareaus have always kept their customers at the forefront of their minds when making business decisions. Being able to supply their recreational customers would be great; but what also excited them was being able to help people medically. At the end of the day, they just want everyone to be happy. Catering to customers is the name of the game in retail, and it is no different when selling cannabis products. Another way in which the Lareaus tend to their customers is with their stellar pricing. They have a running inventory of bargain deals with a phenomenal selection of top shelf products as well: all at the best prices in town. “We really want people to come to us for their needs, if that means making a couple less dollars, that’s fine. We just want people to be happy and keep coming back,” says Matthew Lareau, one of Daniel’s younger brothers who also works for Green Room. Apparently their business model has been successful. Within the first couple of years running the first Green Room location, the family was able to renovate Bad Habits into a second Green Room dispensary and are looking at two more potential shops in Portland in the near future.
The business, popularity, and mainstreaming aspects of marijuana are certainly growing…pun intended. When asked what he thought about the possibility of cannabis being federalized anytime in the near future, Daniel responded, “Definitely within the next decade. With California hopping on board, there is too much unregulated cash currency out there. In order for banking to get behind it, it needs to be federally legal and somebody is going to advocate for banking. Think about legal credit card fees. They’re losing out on the entire marijuana industry and just that is at least hundreds of millions.” Daniel believes that marijuana will be federally legalized not only because of how popular and normalized it is becoming; but because of how much money the government will be able to make from it. That money has far reaching benefits for both the government and the public. For example, Westword’s Michael Roberts reported that the Colorado tax profits from marijuana in 2017 equated to $118 million dollars, $41 million of which went to education and public health. Even if every state only made half that amount from marijuana taxes, that is still billions of dollars that could be going to good tax usage.
The Green Room has been very successful, and their business and profits grow every day. But making money is certainly not the only enjoyable aspect to being involved in the cannabis industry. Daniel is also lucky in the fact that he gets to work with his family every day, not something that many of us get to enjoy. Just like any family that works together it has its ups and downs, but for the most part the Lareaus communicate very well and get along swimmingly. Daniel enjoys dealing with his customers and employees as well; he said he couldn’t ask for a better staff. But at the end of the day, Daniel gets to rest his hat on the fact that he gets to make a living doing something he really enjoys, “I get to wake up every day and deal with cannabis, and that’s pretty cool.” So, if you are in Corvallis and you’re of legal age, head on down to the Green Room and grab some of your favorite strain and smoke up. After all, these trees are legal to burn in the beautiful, green state of Oregon.