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Phinney Ridge’s newest medical marijuana dispensary wants to be open about its business

The High Class, the newest medical marijuana dispensary to operate in the neighborhood, opened its doors at 7601 Greenwood Ave. N., Suite 100, a month ago.

Owner Giovanni Velo formerly worked in security, often at medical marijuana dispensaries, so he’s been part of the industry for several years.
“I believe in the cause,” Velo said.
The High Class aims for transparency in its operations. Taking over the space formerly occupied by an architect’s firm, and by Pelayo Antiques for many years before that, the dispensary has a full wall of windows, letting in plenty of natural light, and allowing passersby to see in. Velo keeps the shades open and the lights on so people can easily see inside.
“We’re here, we want to be open about it,” Velo said. “We’re legal; we’re allowed to be here. Why would I hide myself?

Receptionist Angela Jongema and Owner Giovanni Velo at the front desk of The High Class.
Patients wishing to purchase medical marijuana must first obtain a doctor’s recommendation. Those recommendations are printed on paper with a special watermark that is only visible when copied, which invalidates it. The High Class requires the doctor’s original recommendation, then Velo’s fiancée, Angela Jongema, who is the clinic’s receptionist, also calls the doctor to double-check that the recommendation is valid.
“I’m really strict about it,” Velo said. “You couldn’t walk in to a Rite Aid and say, hey, I need 20 valium. This is not a street corner deal.”
Patients must also show a valid Washington state ID (not a passport). Then a patient is shown into the medicine room, with a counter of glass jars filled with various strains of medicine. An ATM sits in the corner of the medicine room. There is no smoking on the premises.

The medicine room at The High Class.
“People come in and get their medicine and go home,” Velo explained. “It’s like going to a pharmacy at Rite Aid. You stand there, they give you the stuff and you leave.”
Some patients grow their own marijuana, and have more than they need, so they can bring it into The High Class and be “reimbursed” for it.
“We reimburse them for their time and the cash they put into it,” Velo said, emphasizing that The High Class is not allowed to buy marijuana, it can only reimburse for time and materials.
The High Class has 24-hour video surveillance. A huge safe in the back holds all the medicine and paperwork at the end of the day, so there’s nothing for a thief to steal if they’re able to break in.
The High Class is open from 12-10 p.m. seven days a week; it was even open on Christmas and New Year’s Day.
“If they have a question or concern, come in and talk to me,” Velo said of neighborhood residents. “Outside if you don’t want to come in, or inside in the lobby. I understand the stigma the industry has, but it’s not 100 percent true.”
The High Class is Phinney-Greenwood’s fifth medical marijuana dispensary to open in the last year-and-a-half: Seattle Patient Resource Center (SPaRC), 7200 Greenwood Ave. N.; The Healing Center Organization (THCO), 511 N. 85th St.; Green Relief, 145 NW 85th St.; and 3rd; and Cosmic Dragon, 315-B NW 85th St.