Three months after the first medical marijuana emporium opened its doors in Corvallis, the novelty appears to be wearing off.
With three dispensaries now operating in town and a fourth potentially on the way, the medicinal cannabis business seems to be evolving much like any other business, with individual operators building their customer bases and establishing individual market niches.
The city’s newest dispensary is Nature’s Better Health Center, which opened June 17 in 1,800 square feet at 220 N.W. Second St. Up front, along with the reception desk, is a large retail space offering not just hand-blown glass pipes, vaporizers and other marijuana paraphernalia but a growing assortment of other wares made by local artisans, from soaps and baskets to jewlery and little girls’ dresses.
“It brings people in for another reason,” said owner Melissa Wallace. “I don’t want to be a pot shop — that wasn’t the idea behind opening up.”
Wallace, who lost a good friend to cancer last year, said she opened the business because she’s become convinced that marijuana has legitimate medical benefits.
In back is a patient waiting room and a restricted-access area stocked with a dozen varieties of dried marijuana buds, a small selection of cannabis-infused edibles and more than 10 different types of concentrates. The concentrates come in various forms that can be vaporized, applied topically or used in a variety of other ways and have been particularly well-received by her customers.
“A lot of people use this for just pain because they don’t want that high feeling (that comes with smoking marijuana). Not everybody wants to get high,” Wallace said.
“People who come in now, they’re using this prodict for a different reason. They’re using this product because they have pain or they’re trying to cure a disease.”
Business was a little slow at first, Wallace said, but seems to be picking up.
“Our customer base is growing,” she said. “Our clientele is repeating, which is big.”
High Quality Compassion started doing business on May 2 at 1300 N.W. Ninth St. A simple but nicely furnished lobby and reception area greets patients when they come in the front door. There’s a limited selection of retail merchandise, primarily T-shirts and handmade pipes.
The main focus, according to owner Brock Binder, is on providing a consistent selection of medicine at a reasonable price point.
“We’re all about having options,” Binder said. “That’s why we carry a variety of strains, lotions, salves, edibles and, of course, the classic flower.”
In the dispensary area, where a pair of budtenders in purple HQC-logo polo shirts answer questions and fill orders for patients, Binder tries to keep a rotating selection of at least 20 different strains of dried marijuana flowers on hand to address different conditions and user preferences. And he makes a point of keeping the price to $10 a gram or less.
There’s a glass-fronted refrigerator with a wide selection of edibles, from Chocolate Coma Brownies and Tiger Budder Chocolate Bars to Wake & Bake Coffee Spoons and even a medicated OG Chapstick.
High Quality Compassion also carries a variety of concentrates and has started testing them for solvent residue, which Binder thinks will be a selling point with patients. He says business has been steady, with people coming in from as far away as Portland, Eugene, Bend and the coast.
“We have already branded ourselves,” Binder said. “We’ve been told we’re a dispensary for everyone.”
The Agrestic Green Collective became the first dispensary in Corvallis when it opened its doors April 15 at 1665 S.E. Third St. and still appears to be the city’s busiest, seeing 30 to 50 patients a day. With a ritzy vibe like a high-end boutique, the tastefully appointed shop has built a loyal following.
Co-owner Kayla Dunham said she thought volume might fall off when other dispensaries started up, but so far that hasn’t happened.
“It’s gotten steadily busier,” she said.
“I think it helps that we all have different niches, and it helps that we are all in different parts of town, and we each have different target demographics.”
For now, at least, the atmosphere is more collegial than competitive, with local dispensary operators freely referring patients to their rivals if they don’t have a particluar product available.
That may change in the near future, with a fourth dispensary provisionally approved by the Oregon Health Authority to operate at an as-yet-undisclosed location (provisional approval means the application meets most of the state criteria but the dispensary is still awaiting approval of its security system).
There could even be fifth entrant. The Healing Center, a proposed dispensary at 300 S.W. Second St., was rejected by the OHA because it was within 1,000 feet of the Community Services Consortium Youth House, a vocational program for teens a few blocks away. The owners of that business are appealing the decision and have a hearing coming up soon before an administrative law judge.
In the meantime, however, local dispensary operators agree that there’s enough business to go around for everyone, and patients appear to be benefitting from a lively marketplace.
Oregon Medical Marijuana Program cardholder Steve Smith, who stopped by High Quality Compassion on Thursday to pick up some cannabis, says he’s shopped at all three Corvallis dispensaries. He’s found all of them consistently welcoming and professional but says he appreciates having choices.
“I like the variety a lot,” he said. “Maybe one place is closed, or you live closer to another, or one place is out of something … even the medicine is different.”
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