The town of Weed, California, has been in on the joke for years.
After all, the motto of this city of 6,000 is: “Weed like to welcome you.”
Tourists might think this is a pot-friendly area when they see T-shirts and ballcaps bearing tongue-in-cheek references to the town’s name.
Despite the playful marketing, the town, which got its name from lumber pioneer Abner Weed, has only recently taken the plunge to allow sales of medical cannabis.
When the first cannabis dispensary opened on relatively deserted Main Street in February, curious locals stuck their heads inside to see what the fuss was all about.
“I’m glad they come to see us, and then they figure out it doesn’t match the assumptions they have in their head,” says Liz Tabor, owner of La Florista.
She playfully points out that a few locals, who probably wouldn’t like their neighbors to find out, have become customers.
Still others are just happy to go into a store that caters exclusively to medical marijuana patients.
The name La Florista has thrown some passersby for a loop.
“People come in and ask if we have long-stem roses,” Tabor says.
What visitors discover inside is a 10,000-square-foot space that has been converted into a stylish cannabis emporium, tastefully decorated by Tabor, who wants to create a destination resort that will greet visitors on their last weed stop in California — or their first stop for those driving down from Oregon.
When you stroll into the building, a large lobby and friendly attendants greet customers and check ID.
In the back, a spacious room with display cases and myriad products for sale almost fool the eye into thinking you’re not even in a dispensary.
A few pipes and other products line one display, and tucked in the back right corner are clones and soil amendments. The store has plenty of cremes and edibles for sale, too.
In the back left of the room are two bud-tender stations where you can examine strains. Tabor even has a special magnifying screen to examine flowers close up.
Nothing in the room screams cannabis, and Tabor has invited law enforcement officials into the store to show them it’s run just like any other business.
The town has approached legal weed cautiously and, in keeping with that cautious approach, La Florista looks like any other store from the outside.
The City Council insisted the name of the store shouldn’t play on the name of the town, even though Mt. Shasta Brewing Co., which makes Weed Ales a couple of miles away, has plenty of winks and nods to cannabis, including bags with graphics depicting pot leaves and hats and T-shirts emblazoned with “Try Legal Weed,” “100% Pure Weed” and “Got Weed? We do!”
Tabor is an unlikely cannabis store owner — she also owns Mount Shasta Patients Collective — because her skin gets an allergic reaction to flower, though she does take CBDs, a buzz-free compound from cannabis that some recommend for pain or as an anti-inflammatory.
Inside the store are loads of hemp-based products for skin care, and there are even gag gifts, such as jars filled with what looks like bud but is actually a chocolate crunch.
“Try one,” she offers. “There’s no cannabis in it.”
She also has a sauna room and a massage room, because the City Council wanted to emphasize to locals that the store offers a variety of health-related features, not just pot.
Like many small towns, Main Street in Weed has many empty storefronts, and Tabor and locals hope La Florista will lead to a resurgence of business in the downtown.
On international cannabis day — or 420 Day — April 20, Tabor hopes to persuade local officials to close a portion of Main Street so she can invite the public for a barbecue. She says the event will be cannabis-free, and she hopes it will show some skeptical residents that she is a responsible business owner who is trying to help the economy of the town.
“We want to show the community that it is not a stoner-fest,” Tabor says.
Weed Mayor Ken Palfini says the town is pretty much split on the issue of allowing cannabis sales.
“People still have an older impression of cannabis, weed or pot, or whatever nomenclature you want to put on it,” he says. “Reefer Madness — that’s the mentality a little bit.”
Palfini says he’s sensitive to the feelings of his constituents and wants to move slowly on allowing cannabis in the town to show that it won’t result in a “sky is falling” scenario.
“We’re kind of opening the door and halfway closing it,” he says.
With other communities in Siskiyou County such as Mt. Shasta and Dunsmuir allowing sales, Palfini says he feels an impulse to take advantage of a new industry that has swept down the West Coast.
“It could stimulate a little growth in the downtown,” Palfini says.
Like other cities, growth in Weed has clustered near the Interstate 5 interchange, bringing in gas stations and fast-food restaurants while drying up the town center.
As part of its go-slow approach, the council decided to allow two dispensaries in Weed, and only on Main Street. A second dispensary has yet to open across from La Florista, and Palfini says if it doesn’t open by May the license will lapse and be given to another owner.
The City Council was scheduled this month to discuss allowing recreational sales of cannabis to adults, which would put Weed on the map for weed.
“That’s where we are moving,” he says.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.