But returning to Idaho with tax-free 2x4s from Home Depot has very different legal implications from returning with a bag of edibles.
Locals say they often see Idaho police camped out just across the border, ready to pull people over and search their vehicles for illegal cannabis.
“I always try and go the speed limit,” said Will, a 26-year-old Treasure Valley Cannabis Company customer who did not want to give his last name since he planned to return to Idaho with his purchases.
Like many other Boise-area commuters, Will stands out from Ontario’s local population. Their new sport utility vehicles, Patagonia zip-ups and “Black Lives Matter” bumper stickers scream “outdoorsy urban millennial,” and fill parking lots in one of the most conservative regions of the Pacific Northwest.
Will says he has not had run-ins personally with the police, but explains there is always discussion about border police activity in a subreddit he belongs to.
“I’ve thought about taking alternate routes … to try and avoid the police,” he said. ”There are a couple other bridges that go through Payette [Idaho] or smaller towns.”
And then there was Snoop
Of all the changes that have occurred in Ontario since weed sales began, nothing quite compares to the time that Snoop Dogg came to town.
When Hotbox Farms opened in Ontario, co-owner Steve Meland wanted to make a big splash. They were planning to do an event with some fireworks, but then a friend reached out.
“He offered that we could bring Snoop Dogg in for the grand opening concert,” Meland explained.
And suddenly, Hotbox had just 48 hours to put on a concert by the famously weed-loving hip-hop legend.
People started showing up in the early morning hours on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2019. By concert time, the town of 11,000 people had grown by an additional 3,000 to 10,000 people, depending on who you ask. Every parking space at Walmart and Home Depot was full, Meland said, and fast food restaurants ran out of food. At first, everyone was standing around in an empty field because the stage didn’t even go up until midday.
The city didn’t actually give them permission for the concert but Hotbox went ahead anyway.
“It wound up costing them quite a bit of money to have the additional police and firefighters and everything,” Meland explained. “They were really mad.”
Meland said that for other residents of this small farm town, though, the Snoop Dog concert was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and one more example of how the cannabis industry has transformed the area.
“Lots of people certainly thanked us,” Meland said. “[They] were crying, and said just that they would have never had an opportunity to see a concert of that nature.”
One Ontario resident named Brittan Buhrig summed it up on Twitter later that day: “Snoop put Ontario, Oregon on the map.”