‘WORLD WITH CANNABIS IS A BETTER WORLD’
Good things come to those that wait . . . and wait . . . and wait . . . and wait.
Graham Farrar admittedly has showcased patience that most parents wish they could bottle up and sell.
But, when you are a visionary and going toe-to-toe with the stigma of being a cannabis farmer and now adult-use dispensary business owner, it takes a unique commitment to your belief system to find success.
“What a trailblazer, we all owe him a debt of gratitude,” said Tina Fanucchi-Frontado, the CEO and founder of KopSun LLC, an organization dedicated to cannabis education.
On Saturday, Mr. Farrar will see the fruits of his nearly four-year labor in the form of The Farmacy, a 21-and-over cannabis dispensary at 128 W Mission St. in Santa Barbara — the city’s maiden adult-use cannabis store and first to open since Prop 64 was passed in 2016.
“This is my hometown, to be able to say that we were first forever, that’s pretty cool,” Mr. Farrar told the News-Press.
The path to opening has been a methodic, slow process, as The Farmacy is one of three dispensaries approved by the Santa Barbara City Council — a partnership that sees the city collect 14.75 percent in a pair of taxes, with 6 percent as a cannabis tax and an additional 8.75 percent in sales tax.
“We support their business model, they want to create jobs and sell their product,” said Cathy Murillo, the mayor of Santa Barbara. “We are always challenged to find new revenue sources, and they don’t come along every day.
“Marijuana being available for recreational purposes, the city saw it as a way to create that source. The Farmacy did a good job with the application process. And they are going to fit well with the other businesses in that area.”
The application process was laborious and competitive, as 36 entrepreneurs vied for three spots. During the second round of competition, The Farmacy was the only business to receive no negative public comment, with Mr. Farrar focused on presenting facts.
“I believe we have the best location, we are close to State Street, but not too close,” Mr. Farrar said. “We have easy access there, to Anacapa, to the 101, straight through to the Riviera, and we are closest to Goleta and IV. We have plenty of off-street parking, too, which is abnormal on this side of town.”
The look and feel of The Farmacy is intended to take on a boutique, “for locals, by locals” vibe, with Mr. Farrar likening it to a coffee shop or jewelry store.
“We wanted it to feel like Santa Barbara,” said Mr. Farrar, a Santa Barbara High grad. “Not feel like a grocery store. Not like a liquor store. Not like L.A. Not San Francisco. Very Santa Barbara — accepting, well-curated and something for everybody.”
While the Santa Barbara feel is obvious, the store also had strict rules it had to abide by, which included bullet-proof glass, as well as a holding room that allows a greeter to check identification to ensure visitors are 21 or older and that the customer hasn’t exceeded their daily allowance — which is up to one ounce of cannabis and eight grams of concentrated cannabis, according to the Adult Use Marijuana Act.
With limitations in mind, Mr. Farrar has spent considerable time mining both local growers and national offerings, focused on providing the quality he wants The Farmacy to be known for.
“Our goal isn’t to have every product, but to have the best in each category,” Mr. Farrar said. “I have to remind myself that 97 percent of the people that come through our doors have never been to a dispensary. We want to make sure that people experience the best, people don’t need a Wall-Mart of options, they need to get expert advise and choose from the best.”
Once customers have found what works for them, they will also be able to rely upon a delivery service, a benefit that Ms. Fanucchi-Frontado will aid a significant portion of the Santa Barbara community. Ms. Fanucchi-Frontado says she has seen an influx of older residents reach out to KopSun to learn more about the benefits of cannabis, with the organization offering workshops they call, “Leaf Learning,” where they spend 60 minutes breaking down dosing and delivery methods, as well as how cannabis aids illnesses and injuries.
“We are seeing the 40 to 80 year olds shift from over-the-counter pharmaceuticals to cannabis,” Ms. Fanucchi-Frontado said. “Cannabis has such a myriad benefits, but learning what’s right for you just takes a little practice.”
Both Mr. Farrar and Ms. Fanucchi-Frontado believe that the storefront will go a long way to helping combat the stigma that comes with the cannabis industry.
“We’ve come a long way from a couple of buds and a Ziploc,” Mr. Farrar said. “It’s regulated, tested and well-dosed.”
Ms. Fanucchi-Frontado believes that dispensaries will allow for old ideologies and use patterns to change significantly.
“The more we push legal compliance, the less black market growers need to exist,” Ms. Fanucchi-Frontado said. “This will all be about reeducating the old cannabis users. Through teaching, users will start to question the mold and impurities in the (unregulated) cannabis they are smoking. They’ll want it from a dispensary, they’ll want to make sure it was tested.”
The store opening comes on the heels of local residents bringing issues over the smell surrounding cannabis farming, although Mr. Farrar finds irony in the argument, as voters emphatically passed Prop 64, legalizing the recreational use of marijuana.
“You can’t love wine and hate the vineyards,” Mr. Farrar quipped.
As a cannabis farmer in Carpinteria, Mr. Farrar also sees the advantages that Santa Barbara County has, pointing to the perfect climate to help continue to grow the cannabis business, which could be a financial win up and down the coast.
“I can’t wait to have that conversation, to take a look at how our stores help us use that money to help the homeless, with mental health or counselors to aid with alcohol abuse,” Mr. Farrar said.
The health impact of cannabis-related products is a source of personal pride for both Mr. Farrar and Ms. Fanucchi-Frontado.
“The plant has been demonized for a hundred years, people have a visceral reaction to pot or cannabis,” Ms. Fanucchi-Frontado said. “But, it’s great for the environment. It’s great for your health. It’s great for the economy. It’s a superconductor.”
Mr. Farrar took it one step further.
“Someone comes in and uses CBD instead of opiates, or someone uses cannabis instead of abusing alcohol,” Mr. Farrar said. “A world with cannabis is a better world.”
And he no longer has to wait to prove it.