OrganiCann dispensary founder expands marijuana business from Sonoma County
Two decades ago, Californians voted to become the first state in the nation to allow use of medical marijuana. A cannabis trade now worth billions of dollars sprouted, linking growers in the famed Emerald Triangle and those closer to home on the North Coast with dispensaries and consumers buying an ever wider array of pot products.
Still, the drug remains illegal for recreational use, a prohibition that will end if voters pass Proposition 64 on Nov. 8. While the measure leads in the polls, with up to 60 percent of likely voters favoring approval, the pot industry is deeply split, eyeing Colorado's experience and those of three other West Coast states - Oregon, Washington and Alaska - where pot is legal.
Cannabis advocates, entrepreneurs and lawmakers from Sonoma County have stepped into the debate, wrestling with how to promote, legitimize and govern a trade with growing sway and impact on our lives.
Here, meet some of the people shaping the future of the marijuana industry on the North Coast.
Dona Ruth Frank opened one of Sonoma County's first dispensaries, OrganiCann, and she is unabashed in her belief that marijuana is a recreational substance akin to wine that should be legalized.
“I love the plant, the way it grows, the way it smells,” Frank said.
Frank said she also firmly believes the plant and its products offer real medicinal benefits, which is why she obtained the first Sonoma County permit to operate a cooperative. She opened OrganiCann's doors in 2005 on Santa Rosa Avenue.
“My original goal was to open a place where women could buy pot, so women didn't have to go get cannabis on the street,” Frank said.
Frank now owns a constellation of companies, including dispensaries in Oakland and Hopland and the Natural Cannabis Co.product line.
OrganiCann occupies an 11,000-square-foot warehouse on East Todd Road. She's offered programs like a quarterly community-supported agriculture box, hosted a farmers market and collaborates on product lines with celebrities ranging from international hip hop artists to porn stars.
“I have been following the winery model for eight or nine years,” Frank said of her approach to direct marketing and building a loyal customer base.
Before moving to Sonoma County in 1980, Frank said she grew marijuana in Detroit. She came here to be stationed at the U.S. Coast Guard's Two Rock training base in rural Petaluma. She served as post master for Marshall near Tomales from 1983 to 2000.
She opened OrganiCann after running a used record store, Clove Records, on Mendocino Avenue across from Santa Rosa Junior High School for five years.
Frank believes it's time for California to catch up with states that have already legalized the adult use of marijuana. She said Proposition 64 isn't perfect but it's a start.
She plans to cover new taxes for existing medical marijuana members of her dispensaries, which she said are a burden.
Her staff calculated she'll need 10 licenses to operate under both the new state medical marijuana laws under development plus another 10 if Proposition 64 passes.
She said Sonoma County is bound to benefit from legalization because of its natural beauty and reputation for artisanal products.
“The tourism will be phenomenal,” Frank said. “Who wants to smoke weed with the label: ‘Grown in a warehouse in Colorado?'?”
You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 707-521-5220 or email@example.com. On Twitter @jjpressdem.