Napa’s marketplace for legal marijuana products remains smaller than others in California, but newcomers have opened their doors in the city this year even amid the disruptions the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked on local businesses.
Three medicinal cannabis retailers have opened for business in Napa in recent months, joining Harvest of Napa, which became the county’s first legal outlet at the end of 2018. Like Harvest, the new entrants, including the Eagle Eye dispensary at Oak Street and The Herbivore, which is operating a delivery service while preparing a storefront on California Boulevard – are selling only to customers with a doctor’s recommendation to use flower, edibles and other cannabis products. (No businesses in Napa County are currently licensed for adult-use cannabis retailing.)
Eagle Eye welcomed its first customers in February in a 2,400-square-foot space just east of Highway 29. The new dispensary is an offshoot of Vallejo Holistic Health Center, an adult-use outlet in Solano County, according to owner Greg Schoepp.
Wood-paneled and illuminated with roof skylights, the Eagle Eye showroom offers a variety of smokable and edible products, along with concentrates, topical treatments and other alternatives such as bottled waters and beverages infused with THC, the psychoactive ingredient of cannabis
Because Napa’s cannabis selling ordinance requires customers to present a state medical-use card, Schoepp has placed a focus on making that process as rapid and painless as possible with a service he first offered at his Vallejo outlet – using a visitor’s driver’s license or state identification card to issue a medical card in as little as five minutes.
“A lot of people get that deer-in-the-headlights look when they’re asked if they have a card and they say no,” he said. “No problem – we hand them an iPad (to enter information) and reimburse them the cost of a medical card so that it’s free to the end user.”
Around the corner from Eagle Eye is another entrant, The Herbivore, which currently is delivering products to Napa County customers as it prepares to open its storefront west of downtown.
Owner Billy Summers originally planned to open his dispensary in 2019, but city permitting pushed the process into early this year. As the business was recruiting employees in March to staff its storefront, the outbreak of COVID-19 led Napa County and California to impose sweeping stay-at-home orders that shuttered or slowed down wide swaths of retailing, although later guidance from Gov. Gavin Newsom listed cannabis sellers as among the “essential” businesses that could keep their doors open.
“We said, ‘We’re not sure what’s going to happen, so why don’t we pivot to delivery mode?’” Summers said in an interview this month. “We either all go home, or we do what we’ve wanted to do and support the community. So we said ‘Let’s pare it down – we don’t need to hire all these people, but let’s start a delivery program.
“It’s been an incredibly difficult time to open a business, but it’s been amazing. It’s been a slow go but a steady climb, and the support of the locals has been incredible. It’s been an honor and a privilege to have the opportunity.”
While The Herbivore’s storefront has yet to open to the general public, Summers has welcomed a few visitors to tour the store by appointment, a practice he described as a way to promote the dispensary to those who may visit once business restrictions ease.
“Once someone gets that private tour, they want to bring somebody back,” he said. “I try to turn them on to the best possible thing out there.”
The city’s newest purveyor of cannabis products is the Napa Cannabis Collective, which opened July 3 on Kaiser Road at the Napa Valley Commons. Co-owners Michaela Reed and Aimee Henry previously spent several years managing A Therapeutic Alternative, a Sacramento dispensary, according to Reed.
Napa Cannabis Collective’s goal is to set itself apart among local sellers by its therapeutic focus, Reed said Sunday.
“We’re more medically oriented; this space allows us to present ourselves in alignment with the ideas of education and one-on-one consultation,” she said. “The main difference is that we are specifically trying to find solutions for the bio-individual. We ask questions to better understand what the patient is coming in for, what their desired outcome is, and what symptoms they’re trying to relieve – and what their experience level is.”
Elsewhere, Yountville residents will vote this fall whether to make their town the second in Napa County to authorize cannabis retailing. A ballot measure Nov. 3 would ask voters whether to approve an ordinance granting one retail license to the applicant town officials consider the most qualified, on a permit requiring annual renewal. If the measure is approved, Yountville officials would organize public forums to help decide the zoning rules for a dispensary.
In American Canyon, three businesses have applied for city licenses allowing indoor cannabis cultivation, manufacturing and delivery within the Green Island industrial area. Retail sales are not allowed in the industrial zone.
Commerical cannabis cultivation has yet to secure a foothold in the Napa Valley, with wine industry opponents warning that such operations could produce offensive odors and otherwise conflict with the wine-grape production that dominates the county’s agriculture. Supporters of cannabis growing sought to place a measure legalizing and regulating the practice on the November ballot, only to abandon their effort in April after a shelter-in-place order passed during the coronavirus pandemic blocked advocates from gathering the necessary signatures to put the matter before voters.
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