ABOUT TEN MILES NORTH of the Mendocino County Line, Emerald Pharms, the nation’s first solar-powered dispensary, is transforming cannabis culture — one patient at a time.

The dispensary, located in Hopland on the 12-acre site of Real Good’s Solar Living Center is a “must-visit” location for Mendocino County visitors. Founded in 1978, Real Goods is a solar industry pioneer, which grew hand-in-hand alongside the Emerald Triangle’s “Original Growers.” Today the Solar Living Center is a magnet for tourists, green energy enthusiasts, and cannabis lovers from around the world.

Real Good’s focus upon off-the-grid renewable energy and sustainability provides the perfect location for Emerald Pharms. Tucked away between permaculture gardens and a large straw bale retail store, the dispensary overlooks a picturesque, tree-lined pond.

“When John Schaeffer, the owner of Real Goods contacted Project CBD to inquire about situating a dispensary at the Solar Living Center, I immediately thought it was a great idea,” notes Martin A. Lee, author and director of Project CBD, a California-based nonprofit dedicated to promoting and publicizing research into the medical use of cannabidiol and whole plant cannabis therapeutics.

Project CBD provided consulting services to facilitate the launch of Emerald Pharms. “I can’t overstate how much we appreciate participating in this cutting-edge effort, which complements the innovative, green technologies pioneered at the Solar Living Center,” Lee notes.

 

Everything about the dispensary — from its rustic-meets-elegant ambiance to the focus on sustainably grown flowers and products — reaffirms a commitment to healthy plants, healthy industry standards and healthy consumers. Even the word “Pharms” suggests the ethos embodied by high-integrity, organic farmers and producers, people who unabashedly grow cannabis because it is a gateway drug: a gateway to health, pain relief, relaxation and pleasure.

“In just one year since it has been open, Emerald Pharms has become an integral part of the NorCal experience, a gateway to the region,” says Lee.

The dispensary is open to the public. Tourists and medical marijuana patients sip tea in the calm, healing atmosphere while chatting with staff. “Our open-door policy helps remove cannabis-associated stigmas,” notes Chelsea Lucich, director and general manager of Emerald Pharms. Patients trend toward an older demographic, some returning to cannabis after a post-college hiatus, or others who seek relief for medical conditions and are willing to give cannabis a try.

“It’s about being comfortable, welcoming and normal,” says Lucich. “As a younger person in the industry, I visited dispensaries where even I felt uncomfortable, so for older people and first time users, our priority is helping patients feel safe and relaxed,” she explains.

The dispensary marries exemplary service with the provision of lab-tested, locally-sourced products including gourmet cannabis flowers, solvent-free concentrates, fresh-pressed rosin, sublingual sprays and tinctures with various CBD:THC ratios, as well as mood-enhancing edibles and body care products.

 

“About 40% of our patient base has serious, life-threatening illnesses. We tune into patients and really listen. Our goal is empowerment, education and inspiration — helping people to optimize their therapeutic use of cannabis so they can lead a happier, healthier life,” Lucich says. “Our staff is well educated and trained to tune into a patient’s individual needs and experience with the plant. Good listening skills are important to guide people to the right medicine.”

The inventory at Emerald Pharms continues to grow.

“All our flowers are locally sourced. We have everything from sun-grown to light-dep to indoor. All flowers are lab-tested for mold, mildew, pesticides, along with cannabinoid and terpenoid profiles,” Lucich notes.

“We strongly believe that food is medicine,” says Lucich. “We shy away from your typical candies and rice crispy treats and only offer health-conscious choices. We have medicated kombucha, miso soup, probiotic chocolates, raw cacao, granola, and many vegan and gluten-free options with an organic focus. People with food sensitivities are pleasantly surprised when they come to Emerald Pharms and see all the choices available to them.” 

And then there’s sex.

 

“A couple in their seventies recently tried our aphrodisiacs and pleasure massage oils. When they returned, the wife said, ‘I’m 72 and I’m having monkey sex! I’ve never had better sex in my whole life!’ Sex is very healing and therapeutic and it excites me beyond belief to hear stories of cannabis helping people be intimate like that,” Lucich smiles.

An emphasis on attractive, professional packaging is the latest trend among product-makers. “It’s about beautiful logos and products you could imagine seeing in a grocery store. It’s inspiring vendors to look beyond homemade labeling. We’re seeing more pre-packaged, branded flowers. Instead of people coming in with pounds, they’re bringing in 12 jars with 6 different strains. This instills trust and brand recognition. Patients recognize pre-packaged flowers and keep purchasing from their favorite farms.”

Lucich develops a deep rapport with vendors. “I’m not interested in people who walk in and brag they have ‘the best stuff.’ Beyond the product, we’re looking for heart. Why are you in the industry? Are you a patient, or supplying cannabis to a family member? What kind of intention goes into your products? It may sound ‘hippie’ to some, but energy is everything. You can tell who truly cares about the essence and therapeutic value of this special healing herb.”