There was no pungent smoke in the air and no bold trappings other than a bunch of green and white balloons over the front door at the grand opening Sunday of Solful, liberal Sebastopol’s second medical marijuana dispensary.
A few dozen folks lounged and sampled snacks in the lobby of the clean, well-lit premises in a small retail center a block south of Sonoma West Medical Center, west county’s only hospital.
Behind glass doors opened only for those bearing physician-issued medicinal marijuana cards, the goods were displayed as neatly as if they were in a conventional pharmacy.
Eli Melrod, the newly minted cannabis entrepreneur, enthusiastically showed off his wares.
For the uninitiated, there’s a lot more to the cannabis trade than mind-bending weed.
To the right, Solful’s retail room displays topicals, creams and salves applied to the skin and intended to relieve pain, including arthritis, along with sublinguals, tinctures placed under the tongue to facilitate speedy delivery to the bloodstream.
There are edibles, such as miso broth, probiotic chocolates, cashews and almonds infused with tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive ingredient of cannabis plants, and soft gel capsules “for folks looking for a more pharmaceutical feeling,” Melrod said.
The entire left wall gets down to business as the designated “flower area,” displaying 18 strains of cannabis with a card describing the product, the farm that grew it (including a locator map) and the technical details of THCs, cannabinoids and terpenes — the latter which give strains their distinctive odors.
And there are the flowers themselves, kept fresh in amber glass jars for customer sampling — by nose only.
“You can pick it up and give it a smell,” Melrod said, just as a wine connoisseur typically swirls and sniffs before sipping the fruit of the vine.
In the same vein, Melrod said he expects certain cannabis strains will become known for their terroir — the soil and setting — associated with fine wines.
Craig Johnson of Alpenglow Farms in Humboldt County described the five strains he markets at Solful, including Coyote Blue, which took nine years to develop and “comes on almost like a cup of coffee,” rendering the smoker “engaging and talkative.”
A strain called Fruit Loops is “our heavy hitter,” high in THC and something even Johnson uses only “when I have some heavy pain to kill.”
Melrod, 23, said Sebastopol is the setting of choice for his enterprise with co-founder Peter Dickstein, 62, of San Francisco.
“I love Sebastopol,” he said. “This is where I want to put my roots down, the kind of place that’s already very health conscious.”
Proof of Sebastopol’s embrace of medical marijuana — complementing the small town’s penchant for far-left thinking — was the opening of the former Peace In Medicine dispensary in 2007, followed by the election of its former director, Robert Jacob, to the City Council five years later.
Peace In Medicine has since merged with SPARC, a San Francisco-based dispensary.
Len, a customer who declined to give his last name, said he bought some flowers named Pre ’98 Bubba Biodynamic from Glentucky Farm, the new cannabis producer run by former winemaker Mike Benziger.