The first thing you notice about Corvallis’ first medical marijuana dispensary is that it doesn’t look like a drug den.
In fact, it looks like a cross between a doctor’s office and a high-end women’s boutique.
That’s intentional, says Kayla Dunham, co-owner of The Agrestic Green Collective at 1665 S.E. Third St.
“We were just trying to transcend the stereotypes,” she said. “We wanted it to be an elegant kind of place, a place people wouldn’t ever be embarrassed to come into.”
When it opened its doors April 15, The Agrestic became the first medicinal cannabis outlet operating in Corvallis under Oregon’s new dispensary law. For the first time, local residents with valid Oregon Medical Marijuana Program cards have a place to legally obtain the weed without growing their own or arranging for an OMMP-licensed caregiver to grow it for them.
Another local dispensary was approved earlier but is not quite ready to go. High Quality Compassion, 1300 N.W. Ninth St., is shooting for an April 30 opening date. At least three other Corvallis businesses have applied for state certification but have not yet received it.
Dunham said The Agrestic served more than 300 customers in its first week, averaging 40 to 50 a day, including a steady stream of people on the first day.
“Everybody walked in with a smile on their face, one after another,” she said.
Part of the reaction comes from having their preconceptions overturned. Extensive renovations have completely transformed the 672-square-foot building, which once was the office for a used car lot.
Visitors to The Agrestic walk through the front door into a small waiting room decorated in a striking modern style, with black-and-white-striped chairs, a black-and-white polka-dot rug, a green wall with white tree-trunk graphics, a large potted fern and green and white hanging light globes. There’s also a fabric art wall hanging that lists dictionary definitions of the word “agrestic,” which Dunham insists is more than a winking reference to the setting of the marijuana-themed TV show “Weeds.”
Like a physician’s waiting room, it has magazines to read, a TV to watch and a receptionist waiting behind a sliding glass window in one wall.
But instead of a framed medical license hanging in a place of pride, there’s a framed dispensary certificate adorned with a green cross. And instead of filing cabinets full of medical records, the receptionist’s office holds shelves full of young marijuana plants in individual pots.
No marijuana is on display anywhere in the waiting room. As required by state law, access to areas where cannabis is kept must be strictly controlled.
No consumption is allowed on the premises, and there are numerous security measures, including motion detectors, surveillance cameras and a separate room with safes for locking up marijuana when the business is closed.
Patients who come in to purchase cannabis — or caregivers who want to buy for their patients — first must check in with the receptionist, presenting their OMMP cards and photo identification. The cards are scanned into the dispensary’s computer system and stored in an encrypted database for recordkeeping purposes.
The staff doesn’t ask cardholders what their qualifying medical condition is, but people sometimes volunteer that information. Among the more common ones so far have been cancer, multiple sclerosis and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Once the OMMP card and ID have been verified, the receptionist buzzes the customer through a security door into the dispensary area. Again, it’s not what many people might expect.
Glass-fronted display cases hold double rows of apothecary jars filled with “flowers,” the trendy term for the neatly trimmed buds of the cannabis plant. Each jar is labeled with the variety of marijuana it contains, with names such as Blackberry Kush, Purple Rose, Silver Surfer and Golden Pineapple.
Restaurant-style menus tell customers what’s available at the moment, and “bud tenders” in artfully designed Agrestic T-shirts are on hand to help them decide what strain might suit them best.
In addition to different levels of THC, the active ingredient that produces a marijuana high, there are other chemical constituents and botanical properties that can have a variety of therapeutic effects, according to bud tender Michael May.
May said he spends an average of 15 minutes with each customer.
“There’s so many strains,” he said. “People are trying different ones to see what works best for them.”
Prices vary from strain to strain and grower to grower. On Monday, The Agrestic’s dozen or so offerings ranged from $7 to $10.50 per gram, with modest price breaks for larger quantities — $49-$70 for a quarter-ounce, $98-$135 for a half-ounce and so on.
Customers also can purchase cannabis concentrates or topical oils, and the dispensary plans to add tinctures and vaporizer cartridges. Small marijuana-infused caramels and chocolates also are available.
What they can’t buy are cannabis-laced baked goods from the pastry case in the dispensary area. Dunham and her partner, Erik Winn, had hoped to make medicated cupcakes, cookies and pastries a major part of their business model. But just last month, after first threatening to ban most edibles from dispensaries, the state issued restrictive new rules aimed at keeping cannabis-infused products away from children.
So The Agrestic decided to keep the pastry case but stock only nonmedicated baked goods — and even those are not for sale. Instead, customers get a free treat to take home.
And they’ll take their purchase home in style, wrapped in tissue paper in an elegant gift bag imprinted with the Agrestic’s logo.
“We want people to find this accessible,” Dunham said. “We don’t want them to think there’s anything shady about it.”
Dunham’s customers aren’t the only ones who find Corvallis’ first medical marijuana dispensary defying their expectations. Dunham herself has been taken aback by the reaction she gets from her clientele.
“It goes beyond excitement,” she said. “People aren’t coming here because they want to use it recreationally; they’re coming here because they’re very sick. I’ve been surprised at how people are just moved to tears at times because they can get relief.”
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