Sebastopol has always been full of people who enjoyed cannabis long before it was legal, but Solful has legitimized the retail industry here and brought it into the 21st century. Anytime I visit, the spectrum of people who I see in there demonstrates the shop’s wide appeal, and there are products for any medical or recreational need. The staff are knowledgeable and patient: they explained why the CBD treats I was getting for my dog at a regular pet store weren’t working, and helped me find a suitable replacement. The laws surrounded marijuana are ever-changing, but Eli and the team at Solful have created a beautiful space that makes purchasing cannabis a fun and inviting experience. —Jesse Hom-Dawson
While cannabis legislation has reached the point where anyone 21 and over can walk into a licensed dispensary, there are still people who make assumptions about those who consume cannabis and shop at dispensaries. But Solful, the newest dispensary in Sebastopol, wants to break that stigma and highlight the fact that all sorts of people use cannabis for both medical and recreational reasons.
There are two types of people who come to Solful: those who have visited a dispensary before and those who have not. While both types of visitor’s knowledge of the many health and recreational benefits of cannabis vary greatly, they align in their complete awe of the approachable and welcoming vibe of the Sebastopol dispensary. Some visitors have used cannabis for decades and some are first-timers, but they are all normal people: moms, dads, grandparents, teachers, doctors, firemen, and everyone in between.
While dispensary’s interiors often sit somewhere on the spectrum between a sterile doctor’s office or a head shop, Solful exudes the West Sonoma County Wine Country vibe and feels incredibly welcoming. Customers engage in conversations openly with Solful’s Health & Happiness Consultants and it’s not uncommon to hear comments like: “This is not at all what I was expecting”, “This feels so different than other dispensaries I’ve been to”, and “It looks and feels just like a boutique”. These statements are common themes often heard—and said—by those coming and going from the shop.
Creating a space that felt comfortable, approachable and safe was an intentional decision by Solful co-founders Eli Melrod and Peter Dickstein. “I just really wanted to create a space where my mom would feel at ease,” explains Eli.
But the path to Solful was much longer and far more complex than simply deciding to create a space that Eli’s mom would like. Eli shares that there were actually three components that shaped his vision: “The first is a very personal one. Fourteen years ago, my father, Jon, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and told that he had a zero chance of survival. While he was undergoing chemotherapy, my father tried a number of non-traditional treatments—including cannabis—to help combat some of the side effects of the treatment. I’m not going to say that cannabis cured him, but I can bear witness to its ability to help his body get rebalanced and on a path to healing.” Eli is authentic in his gracious appreciation of the plant and feels fortunate and happy to have his father with him on his journey to open Solful.
Eli also saw a number of people in the community using cannabis along with holistic methods to improve their health and enhance their lives. New methods of consuming cannabis were emerging—beyond just smoking or eating brownies—and it increased his curiosity in learning just how much potential there was for cannabis to help people. “I went to work at a cannabis testing laboratory in Nothern California, which was another component of creating Solful,” says Eli.
Eli started working in the cannabis testing lab before testing was required and regulated at the state level. Not all producers or cultivators were required to test their product, and many dispensaries stocked their shelves with products that they didn’t know a lot about. “I started learning more about the science behind how cannabis worked, along with the troubling fact that there was a significant amount of cannabis products that included contaminants and chemicals that most people wouldn’t want in their body,” recounts Eli. The lack of regulation meant while imbibers were benefitting from consuming cannabis, there was also a lot of unsafe products out in the market.
During his time working in the testing facility, Eli thought a lot about his dad while considering the adverse side effects of consuming products that weren’t clean, especially for those dealing with an illness or condition like his father. “I believe that we should always know exactly what we are putting in their bodies, and this should apply to cannabis-based products as well. In the same way that organic farmers help us trust what we eat, I saw the need for a trusted source for high-quality, safely-produced cannabis.”Eli’s sentiment seems obvious because clean, organic, farm-to-table food is such a pillar of West Sonoma County, so why weren’t more dispensaries adopting the same practices?
While working at the lab, Eli started meeting with cultivators and farmers, and finding people who were putting a tremendous amount of thought and love into their craft. “I started visiting farms throughout Northern California and learning about the ethos of cannabis traditions that stretch back for generations in this part of the state. From the thinking that goes into developing new strains, products, and delivery methods to the innovative farming techniques, I saw a level of sophistication that literally blew me away. The more I learned from these amazing people, the more excited I got about sharing the art and science of what they were doing with my friends and family,” Eli explained. “And the love and care that these cultivators put into their cannabis really became the third component.”
From all of these experiences, the idea of Solful started to take form. It would be a dispensary where the community could come to learn about cannabis from a team of happy and enthusiastic people; where a collection of truly thoughtful products coming from small producers and sustainable farms would be shared. And where individuals, regardless of their past experience with cannabis, would feel comfortable exploring cannabis as an option on their journeys to health and happiness.
With his vision and the partnership of close family friend, Peter Dickstein, Eli was able to make Solful a reality. Since opening their doors in October 2017, Eli, Peter, and the Solful team have become an important part of the West Sonoma County community. Despite its success, Eli remains modest about the impact Solful has had on the community and attributes much of it to the community itself: “I couldn’t be more excited, proud, and humbled have such amazing support from the Sebastopol and West Sonoma County community. It’s simply the perfect place for Solful to call home.”
And best of all, fulfilling Eli’s hope, his mom loves the dispensary.
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