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Cananbis retailers, artists celebrate Spokane with custom murals

One of the positive side effects cited by cannabis advocates is heightened creativity. Firm data on its effectiveness in doing so is limited, but artists and innovators like Carl Sagan, Bob Marley and Steve Jobs all were convinced that this wonder herb was able to enhance their thought processes.

So it’s only fitting that Spokane-area cannabis retailers find creative ways to reflect the city within their store walls. Actually, upon their walls.

A large blank wall at the far end of Green Star Cannabis on North Division Street had plagued owner Sam Calvert since the shop opened in 2014.

“We had a tough time figuring out what to do with that big white wall,” said Calvert.

In 2015, Calvert hired local artist Nate O’Neil to paint a mural with the direction of “iconic figures doing modern things.”

The resulting mural, called “The Perplexing Wall” because of its difficult origins, includes a multicolored, floor-to-ceiling tree with four panels that feature famous figures in pop culture enjoying cannabis in Spokane.

One panel includes Marilyn Monroe playing hacky sack while Cheech and Chong make plans to visit Green Star Cannabis. Another depicts one of Spokane’s most famous former residents, Bing Crosby, lounging near the Spokane River with his trademark pipe – now branded with the Green Star Cannabis logo.

Customers don’t always notice the mural right away, since they’re usually first greeted by a budtender who answers questions about product and invites them to browse the store’s cases. But as they approach the mural, it definitely garners attention.

“Customers, especially out-of-town visitors, will take a picture with their budtender in front of the mural with their purchase,” Calvert said. “I’ve had as many as 15 or 16 people in one photo.”

VIP visitors are also impressed with the artwork, as many state senators and congressmen have visited Green Star Cannabis to learn more about Washington’s growing cannabis industry.

“They don’t expect to see this kind of custom art in here,” Calvert said.

In North Spokane, Spokane Green Leaf unveiled its own mural in March 2018. Owners Todd Bennatt and Kirk Haggerty commissioned local artist Daniel Lopez to create the 10 foot by 16 foot mural on a wall near the entrance to the store on North Country Homes Boulevard.

“We wanted to find a way to support a local artist, as well as have a representation of Spokane in our store,” said Bennatt in an email.

Lopez, a California native who adapted his experience as a graffiti artist to more conventional art styles while still using spray can paint, created the mural over several nights after hours at the cannabis retailer.

The stylized version of the downtown Spokane skyline features landmarks like the Monroe Street Bridge, Riverfront Park Clocktower and Pavilion and Steam Plant smokestacks.

In a Spokane Green Leaf blog post about the mural, Lopez said, “I love every chance I get to create art that highlights Spokane and encourages people to visit our wonderful city.”

“Daniel is an incredibly talented up and coming graffiti artist in Spokane and has a lot of his work displayed on buildings around town. We feel fortunate to have partnered up with Daniel for this project,” said Bennatt in the same blog post.

Haggerty agreed, stating, “The addition of local art in our store is important to us as we believe the use of cannabis heightens people’s creativity. Showcasing a great piece of art in our shop just highlights the possibilities!”

A time-lapse video of Lopez’s work on the mural can be seen on the Spokane Green Leaf website (spokanegreenleaf.com). Visitors to the store are also welcome to take a selfie in front of the mural to document their visit.

Green Star Cannabis owner Sam Calvert also displays his collection of cannabis propaganda posters throughout the store. His first piece was a poster for “Marijuana Girl,” a gift from then-neighbor Spencer’s Antiques to welcome the cannabis retailer to the area. Calvert says the demonization of cannabis depicted in the historical propaganda posters is “insulting … but I like it.” Several smaller pieces by muralist Nate O’Neil are also on display.

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