SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The pandemic has not slowed down The Farmacy Santa Barbara--which opened a year ago Monday as the city's first retail cannabis storefront.
The dispensary, near De La Vina and Mission Streets, opened Aug. 24, 2019 to a line stretching outside and down the block.
During the pandemic, no customers are allowed inside the store. Rather, they can line up distanced outside and buy products at a window, similar to customers interacting with a bank teller.
CEO Graham Farrar says the year has been a success thanks to dedicated regulars and plenty of new customers. He says business has even sped up during the pandemic.
"If anything, we are busier than ever before," Farrar said Monday. "Cannabis is a real bright spot against an otherwise pretty dark economic backdrop."
Farrar says not only are more people buying recreational cannabis, but more are also now coming to his dispensary to find products to reduce anxiety or make it easier to fall asleep during the stresses that come with the ongoing health and economic crises.
Neighboring businesses--such as Mission Street Ice Cream, Derf's Café or the Daily Grind coffee shop--say The Farmacy's transition into the neighborhood has been seamless overall, and that the dispensary has brought more business to the area.
Santa Barbara Economic Development Manager Jason Harris said Monday that the city's two dispensaries--The Farmacy and Coastal Dispensary--have been "good neighbors."
Their six percent cannabis tax has also provided the city with an economic boost, while other industries like tourism and hospitality have been hit hard during the pandemic.
“For the most part, we’ve gotten no complaints," Harris said of the dispensaries. “They’ve been stable throughout the pandemic… With these very uneven times having any stable activities is better than not.”
Coastal Dispensary, which opened last September, has seen steady sales this year, according to Public Affairs Director Devon Wardlow.
She explained that although Coastal has missed out on what would have been a busy summer tourist season, the past year has gone rather smoothly and that the city's two dispensaries have not seen any issues.
“In Santa Barbara, there’s been a big emphasis on community engagement and I think that really runs core to why we’ve been so successful,” Wardlow said. “I also think that the city did their due diligence, took their time to create an ordinance that was merit-based, and really resulted in the best operators [being chosen].”
The city has approved a third dispensary, but it is still in development.