Five years ago, if you were to tell Sharon Jacobson that she would be opening a medical cannabis dispensary, she probably would have chuckled. “I have always seen myself owning a cafe of some sort," she said. "I love to bake and cook and have always considered myself a very nurturing person, but I never thought that I would own a business in the cannabis industry.”
It wasn’t until she became a patient herself that she began to really consider the business. Like many female patients, Sharon was disgruntled with the lack of options for women in the industry. Between the sexually explicit advertising and the lack of products designed for women, Sharon was fed up.
“Whenever I went to other medical locations, they were very male-oriented. With the dark leather furniture and their general appearance, it felt more like going into a frat house. As a female, I wanted a better environment.”
Herbs House from the outside.
The desire for a more inclusive access point led to the creation of Herbs House: a little dispensary full of compassion, creativity, and personality. The greater Seattle area has over 78 dispensaries, but, as Sharon says best, Herbs House is “a little out of the box. It isn’t what people have in mind when they think of a collective.”
Located in a converted 1920s Craftsman-style house in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, Herbs House functions more like a social gathering place than your standard collective. Featuring a fully functional organic café and juice bar, anyone, patient or not, can curl up in a comfy chair in front of the café’s funky lime green fireplace with a latte or glass of fresh juice.
The signature Herbs House fireplace.
Herbs House had its grand opening this September, and it has already made an impression on the Ballard community. “We wanted to create a family-friendly environment,” Sharon told us, “a place where you can come with family members who aren’t patients and still feel comfortable.”
This family-friendly atmosphere is far from the image of the dark and seedy operations protected by security guards that pop into the minds of those unfamiliar with cannabis.
Though overall Seattle is a very dispensary-friendly city, as a new collective owner, Sharon still has to overcome the hardships specific to opening a cannabusiness. “Every day is a different learning experience.” Sharon admitted. “Every day, I learn something new about the industry.” Due to the questionable legal status of cannabis, business leaders still struggle to find basic needs such as credit, space to rent, and community support.
Little jars of bubble hash and gingerbread cake.
Said Sharon, “In a compliant zone” [a region that complies with all of the regulations for opening up a cannabis shop], “there are only so many business that are for lease, only X amount of landlords are comfortable with the industry; it’s like trying to find a needle in the haystack.”
These types of restrictions coupled with the stigma surrounding retail locations make cannabis a difficult industry to join. When starting a cannabusiness, Sharon explained that “you have a vision and an ultimate goal, but know every day that vision is going to be altered or changed a little bit. You can’t get weighed down by all of the mishaps that come your way.”
As states continue to become more cannacurious, Sharon’s vision for a comfortable, female and family-friendly collective will only become more important as a model for future business owners. “We need to open people’s eyes. People are starting to realize that cannabis is not just a scary, illegal industry. To encourage change, we really need to open up opportunities for growth within the industry itself.”
For Herbs House, this means less sex, more compassion, and an inviting place to sip a great cup of tea.