Green Table Interview: ArborSide Compassion
Recently, Sativa Magazine had the opportunity to sit down with the owner of ArborSide Compassion, Rhory Gould, and operations manager, Alex Stewart, to rollout our first Q&A session gathered around our newly formed Green Table.
ArborSide Compassion, or what one might hear a local refer to as 1818, is Ann Arbor’s premier medical Cannabis provisioning center. Located at 1818 Packard Road, (thus the reason for the numerical name reference) in downtown Ann Arbor is the only dispensary in Michigan that offers on-site potency testing. Rhory is definitely a hands-on owner and is very much involved in the day-to-day operation. But, he knows that when traveling calls him away, without hesitation he confidently passes over the reins to Alex, knowing ArborSide is in good hands.
Note: Unless specified, questions were not directed specifically to either Rhory or Alex, and unless the name of the responder is noted, answers are a combination that both gave.
Q: When did ArborSide open?
A: Rhory: We’ve been in business just a little over two years, and it was in planning one and a half years prior to the doors opening.
Q: Why did you choose to open a medical dispensary?
A: Rhory: Because I’m so Pro-Cannabis, when the opportunity came up to open a medical dispensary, I went for it. I really wanted patients to have a place to go that would have a safe environment and many choices. I’m into people having choices.
Q: Do you have a partner, or are you the sole owner?
A: Even though it’s very rare, Rhory is the sole owner of ArborSide. Most dispensaries have at least one, if not two or more, partnerships and usually one partner is a lawyer.
Do you rent or own the property that houses ArborSide?
A: Rent. I was originally going to open up at a different location, Platt/Packard Rd., but I was having a difficult time with the city council. Then this location became available, and it had already been set up as a medical dispensary, so when the building was offered to me, I moved in.
Q: How many employees do you have on staff?
A: 9 MMJ Consultants (consisting of both male and female).
Q: How do you advertise ‘now hiring’?
A: We get a lot of walk-ins that drop off their resume, word of mouth. We take referrals from current employees very seriously. The closeness of our employees is very important.
Q: Even though Ann Arbor is Cannabis-friendly, and has decriminalized up to a specific amount with only a small fine attached, how much bureaucratic red tape did you have to go through to get a business license in the City of Ann Arbor, and to register it with Washtenaw County?
A: Rhory: We sent in our application with the $600 business license fee and ArborSide’s business application was the first medical marijuana dispensary application to be accepted by the City of Ann Arbor. In total, there have only been eight submitted, and of those eight, seven of us are in the Cannabis Guild. They made attempts to close us all down, but it didn’t work. ArborSide is located in a residential/business area and is within walking distance, the only complaint we’ve ever had was because an animal had gotten into our trash. Since then, we’ve put a fence up in that area and have never had another problem or complaint.
Rhory: Ann Arbor is the only city in Michigan that has a Cannabis Guild. The Guild meets once a month to support one another, not work against each other. It’s been five years since the MMMJ law passed. Within the first two years, only a couple dispensaries opened up, then a few more in the third year. And, they’ve made attempts to close us all down which didn’t work. They keep adding little things into the law to keep making it difficult for us because they’re against us. They’re the minority, and we’re the majority, it’s the way the vote went, but it’s just the way they think. The laws need to be recognized, it’s just the way it is. Officials and law enforcement were just trying to keep us from doing what we’re doing here. We’re providing safe access to everybody. What’s better than that? We give them choices to choose from because what helps you might not help me. Officials and law enforcement are now working with us, not against us. This has been a complete 360 as of late. Even Stephen Postma testified for the House Bill passing.
Since this location was set up as a dispensary, there has only been one break-in, and that was when MedMar was here, other than that, we’ve had no problems. Legal Cannabis doesn’t create crime; we have created a safe access place for people to get their medicine.
Q: After banks decided not to accept Cannabusinesses as clients anymore for credit card processing, have you looked into any third-party merchant providers so you can begin accepting them again?
A: No, but they continue to call us wanting us to sign up with them. We’ve been shut down two or three times, so we aren’t going to reapply with another provider until it’s here to stay. We don’t want to have to hide our dispensary business behind another business just to be able to process credit cards. We’re doing everything legit, and that’s the way we want to stay. We can’t get credit from outside companies because of the type of business we operate. It’ll probably take five to 10 years from now before banks will accept us.
Q: Is Ann Arbor the safest city to own and operate a dispensary in the state of Michigan?
A: Rhory: Yes, Ann Arbor is a very friendly Cannabis city and I think it is one of, if not the safest places to be. I feel very safe in Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor is very fair.
Q: Right now, there’s a ban on concentrates and medibles due to the wording in MMMJ law, but yet you continue to carry them when most other local dispensaries have stopped. I’m sure this has brought in new business, but do you feel that it has in any way brought unwanted attention?
A: Alex: No, we do not feel this has brought any unwanted attention. Concentrates provide the highest medicinal value to our patients and we are here to provide safe access.
Q: What do you do to make ArborSide stand out from and above the rest of the dispensaries in the area?
A: Alex: On-site potency testing. We’re a good resource for patients and caregivers. We try to keep our prices lower than anyone else and provide higher quality medicine than the rest. We’re here for the people, and want to do what’s best for them, they come first.
Q: How many members do you have?
A: Alex: We currently have over 3,300 active members. This past November, we accepted 94 new patients. When we first opened, we were averaging about 43 people a day, now we are averaging about 80 people per day. Business is very good.
Q: What is the geographical reach of ArborSide’s members?
A: Alex: We have members and vendors come as far as from the Upper Peninsula. *Note to readers: Depending on the starting point, the Upper Peninsula could be a full day’s drive, but a minimum of four in half hours- Hippy KK
Q: Do you have more members of one specific age group than another?
A: 25–45 probably make up the majority of our patients. But, we do get a lot of older people and we even have a patient that has a minor card. We see people of all walks of life and from all over the state.
Q: With Ann Arbor being a big college town, do you see a decline in business during summer when schools out?
A: Alex: No, we don’t consider our location to be in a college area.
Q: Is there a particular time of the year you see an increase in business?
A: Alex: Yes, Christmas. But since we are constantly getting new members, we stay pretty consistent.
Q: Do you advertise anywhere?
A: Alex: Yes. We advertise in CULTURE Magazine and do all the social media sites and Google+. We’re also going to be in a new magazine called The Burn that’s coming out soon. WeedMaps, Yelp, we’ve advertised in High Times.
Q: What type of impact does having the Hash Bash here locally have on ArborSide?
A: It’s huge. It’s a really positive thing for us. It gives us the opportunity to bring in some big people. Last year we brought in Ed Rosenthal, the year before, we brought in Steve DeAngelo from HarborSide and this year we would like to bring back Ed Rosenthal. We have a booth down there on Monroe Street, so it gives us the opportunity to get out there and make people aware of us.
Q: Rhory, what are your thoughts/opinions on the two following bills that recently passed the house:
HB 5104 – which would allow medical patients access to extracts
A: Of course we want this bill to get passed through the senate.
HB 4271 – introduced by Rep. Mike Calton, this bill will protect dispensaries and allow patient-to-patient sales which are not currently protected under the law.
A: We are keeping a close eye on this bill, we certainly hope it passes. We would love to have legislature say that provisioning centers/dispensaries can exist. But if it doesn’t, it isn’t going to really have an effect on us.
Q: Would you like to see Cannabis legalized on a state level in Michigan? What do you think would happen to medical dispensaries here if it does get legalized?
A: Rhory: Absolutely we would love to see Cannabis get legalized. We don’t really think anything would happen to the medical side of things if it does. Medical dispensaries will still exist.
Q: Alex, as the operations manager, what do you like best about your job here at ArborSide?
A: I like being able to directly help the people who voted in our law by providing safe access to the best selection in Michigan. I also enjoy the fact that I am able to utilize and share the skills I developed while completing my undergraduate degree in Computer Information systems from EMU.
Both Rhory and Alex made mention of the importance of having a job that you love doing. Stating that if you’re doing something you enjoy doing, it just makes everything that much easier.
Having relocated from New York, Rhory has lived in Michigan for the past 11 and-one-half years. He is a strong Cannabis advocate and is well known within the Cannabis community for his strong beliefs and actions within the movement to end prohibition.
In the past, ArborSide Compassion has proudly sponsored winners of the High Times Cannabis Cup. It’s believed that the Cup will be returning to Michigan this July, be sure to keep a close eye on the contestants, you just might recognize a name entered.
ArborSide Compassion offers their members a full line of Cannabis products to choose from. For membership details and product availability, visit www.arborside.net.