WEED, Calif. — When they see the signs for Weed, carloads of curious travelers veer off Interstate 5 to stop and gawk. They file into gift shops that sell “Weed Is So Dope” refrigerator magnets and sweatshirts advertising a fictional University of Weed: “A Place of Higher Learning.”
For decades, the residents of Weed, a California lumber town an hour from the Oregon state line, have felt like the butt of jokes, exasperated from the repetition of the Daily Explanation: No, the town is not named for marijuana but a local 19th-century timber baron, Abner Weed. For years, the town rejected proposals to leverage the name and allow the sale of marijuana.
“I did not want a bunch of potheads sitting out in front of the store smoking doobies on a bench,” said Sue Tavalero, a former hairdresser who is now mayor.
But Weed’s leaders, including Tavalero, have since had a change of heart. The City Council cracked open the door to the pot industry three years ago, allowing a medical marijuana dispensary to open on Main Street.
Then last year, when a second dispensary opened, even as other businesses downtown suffered during lockdowns, Weed’s leaders turned their timid embrace