Weed in a commercial grow operation

Forbidden Cannabis Joins Central District as Industry Equity Efforts Continue

by Justin Carder

(This article originally appeared on the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog and has been reprinted under an agreement.)


A family of Washington pot shops now spans from the banks of the Columbia to the Central District. Forbidden Cannabis Club opens Friday on East Union.

Meanwhile, Seattle has a new set of policies hoped to improve equity in the city’s cannabis industry.

CHS reported in July on the deal to purchase Central District pot shop Ponder and its East Union property coveted both for the value of its land and its cannabis license just down the street from the headquarters of one of the city’s leading pot retailers, Uncle Ike’s.

With the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board approving the transfer, the transaction is now a done deal, and Forbidden has announced its Sept. 23 grand opening with promotions and sale prices.

The Forbidden Cannabis employees in Lacey pose outside the storefront
The Forbidden crew in Lacey, Washington. (Photo: Forbidden Cannabis)

The acquisition adds a new Forbidden Cannabis store to a family of retail shops that includes locations in Carson, Lacey, Okanogan, Olympia, and now East Union.

Ownership of Forbidden includes industry veteran Saranjit Bassi, who took on the city of Bonney Lake over its retail cannabis ban. According to corporate filings, the East Union location will be managed under Forbidden business partners Amandeep Ghag and Paul Sandhu.

The group will now be entering into a neighborhood pot retail battle with Uncle Ike’s on its owner Ian Eisenberg’s home turf.

The opening comes as Seattle has put new legislation into place in response to the Social Equity in Cannabis Task Force formed to address the lack of diverse ownership and issues with working conditions for frontline employees at the city’s cannabis businesses.

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell signs cannabis equity legislation while seated at a table and surrounded by onlookers
“The work still to come will highlight additional opportunities for improvement in our current system, and I look forward to the recommendations that result from the Cannabis Needs Assessment,” Mayor Bruce Harrell said about the cannabis equity legislation he signed last week. “This work won’t be easy, but I believe together we can foster an open conversation between workers, community members, and industry leaders to identify common priorities and align on efforts to advance our shared values of equity and restoration.” (Photo: City of Seattle)

The package of legislation signed last week by Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell includes a bill that prepares the city for issuing new “social equity licenses” for Seattle’s marijuana industry. The license could be a core element that would provide a new path to ownership for qualifying entrepreneurs and is hoped to even the playing field for those seeking the coveted permits.

The origins of Washington and Seattle’s path to legal retail marijuana business ownership included no efforts to address diversity in the industry or the historical inequity of drug law enforcement. Most of the original owners in the city were white entrepreneurs rewarded for being early movers as the industry took shape.

Ponder owner John Branch is one example, opening Ponder quietly in the Central District in 2015 as the neighborhood’s second pot shop. A year earlier, Eisenberg had opened his first Uncle Ike’s location at 23rd and Union, and, for a time, the store sold more pot than any other in Seattle. Ponder continued on as a quiet alternative to the flashier, more ambitious Ike’s.

Terms of the deal with Forbidden were not disclosed and details of the planned property sale have not yet been made public in county records.Forbidden Cannabis Club Seattle opens Friday at 2413 E. Union. Learn more at Forbidden Cannabis Club.


Justin Carder is the editor and founder of the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog.

📸 Featured image by Canna Obscura/Shutterstock.com.

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