Friday is opening day for city’s first cannabis retailers

READY FOR BUSINESS—David MacFarland, owner of Leaf Dispensary, inside his showroom. RICHARD GILLARD/Acorn Newspapers

The Conejo Valley is a marijuana desert no more.

As of Friday, those holding a doctor’s recommendation will no longer have to drive half an hour to Port Hueneme or the western San Fernando Valley to buy cannabis.

Both of the city’s permitted cannabis dispensaries—Leaf Dispensary and Legendary Organics—will open their doors to the public Feb. 4, but only to those who hold a medical marijuana card obtained via a physician’s note.

Friday will serve as a soft opening for both stores, neither of which wanted to give up the claim as Thousand Oaks’ first cannabis storefront.

Leaf owner David MacFarlane said he might plan a grand opening on Super Bowl Sunday in honor of his business partner, longtime Thousand Oaks resident Paul Burns, who died last year on the same day the championship football game was played.

“I just wish Paul was here for this,” MacFarlane said. “I’m still trying to find something to honor him.”

Legendary Organics also plans a grand opening down the road, though the owners also have not set a definite date.

Legendary Organics general manager Brittany DeJarnette and co-owner Ned Davis inside theirs.  The two outlets—serving only those with a medical marijuana card—will open to the public on Feb. 4. Photos by RICHARD GILLARD/Acorn Newspapers

SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT—Legendary Organics general manager Brittany DeJarnette and co-owner Ned Davis inside their showroom. The two outlets—serving only those with a medical marijuana card—will open to the public on Feb. 4. RICHARD GILLARD/Acorn Newspapers

The facilities themselves bear no resemblance to “head shops” of earlier eras. Both stores are decked out with lots of wood, glass and art. Security cameras are everywhere, and visitors must show identification in an antechamber before being admitted to an inner showroom.

Even with the similarities, the dispensaries give off different vibes.

Legendary, at 1339 Lawrence Drive, stresses the healing nature of cannabis in its front section with a small library of books and other publications available to visitors. It also offers consultation rooms.

“If you’re a patient and you need to talk about cannabis or if you need to see if we have what you’re looking for, that’s where you go,” said co-owner Ned Davis. “It’s also for the cannabis curious who just want information about cannabis.”

EASTERN INFLUENCE—Bud-viewing locations inside the Legendary Organics showroom. RICHARD GILLARD/Acorn Newspapers

Like Leaf Dispensary, Legendary will provide those who believe cannabis could benefit them medically with opportunities to connect with a doctor for a tele-consult that could result in the issuance of a card in about 15 minutes.

The inner chamber is a mix of industrial and modern elegance, with exposed pipes and vents above cube-shaped chandeliers. The walls are covered with works by street artist Risk, who also can designs for local microbrewery Tarantula Hill, Davis said.

As with Leaf, cases will display all types of cannabis products, including drinks and edibles, tinctures and creams and, of course, the “flower,” itself. So-called budtenders will be available to answer questions at both shops.

Leaf, at 3321 Grande Vista Drive, gives off an upscale surf shop vibe, with wood and stone walls accented with bright graphic art.

“I wanted something very classy and upper end, something the city could be proud of,” MacFarlane said. “I promised the City Council I would make a first-class facility, and that’s what I feel we’ve done here. It’s cool to see it come true.”

MOOD LIGHTING—Green light illuminates the lobby of Leaf Dispensary in Newbury Park. Persons without a medical marijuana card are welcome to enter the lobby but cannot enter the showroom to make a purchase. Owners of both shops said they hope the City Council will eventually consider granting them recreational status, so they can sell to anyone 21 and over. RICHARD GILLARD/Acorn Newspapers

Long haul

It was the summer of 2017 when Thousand Oaks, nudged by evolving state law and attitudes, tackled changes to city ordinances having to do with the plant.

It would be another year before the council voted to award a single permit to Legendary Organics after an arduous selection process.

In the fall of 2019, the City Council agreed to grant a second permit to Leaf.

Both dispensaries experienced issues with their originally approved locations and had to scramble to find new homes.

State permitting and exhaustive city background checks took time to conduct and process, and there was the matter of outfitting the stores to comply with various safety requirements imposed by the city.

“The city put in some pretty robust security measures,” said Thousand Oaks Police Chief Jeremy Paris, who has toured and approved both dispensaries. “You don’t want to get too burdensome that you can’t function, but you need to ensure you’re not bringing problems either.”

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED—Different selections of cannabis to choose from at Leaf Dispensary. RICHARD GILLARD/Acorn Newspapers

Hazy future

While the dispensaries will be medical-only, both hope the City Council will revisit its ban on adult use, or recreational, shops once the dispensaries can show some of the council’s concerns turn out to be nonissues.

Davis, a Westlake Village City Council member, shared his insight on the subject.

“I think the thing is fear. Fear of losing control and that the youth will be corrupted,” he said. “I think once they realize the controls are basically universal and the legal shops will follow those. . . . It’s the illegal shops that don’t, and those are the ones who are corrupting—and you know what? They’re the cheapest.”

Owners of both dispensaries said they would work together along with city staff to bring the issue before the council soon.

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