The passage of Measure 92 and developments to state law by the 2015 Oregon State legislature have gone a long way towards improving the business climate for Salem cannabis dispensaries.  One of the most striking examples is the way two young, local entrepreneurs, working in close collaboration with the City of Salem, have opened a second location and are expanding it into a welcoming, multi-dimensional destination to serve both medical and recreational cannabis users – as well as people who don’t use cannabis at all.

The business is a unique grower-retail partnership, the cannabis and cannabis products are all organic and grown in Salem city limits and the pair is excited by the business possibilities of an alliance with up to 20 food trucks to enhance and expand what Salem offers.

“We want to make this work for everyone,” says 7 Leaf Collective owner Mike Warren.  “We’ll be right off the freeway, offering something that help puts Salem on the map as a foodie city and also supports our skilled agricultural growers.  There’s a lot of talent around here.’

The businessmen are Warren, 32, of Salem and Joel Taylor, 36, of Keizer.  7 Leaf Collective opened its first dispensary in 2014 and has been operating roughly one year at 1026 Commercial St NE.

Warren and Taylor have spent the last three months prepping a second location at 3410 Hawthorne Ave NE, just west of the I5 freeway, north of Silverton Rd.  The new dispensary is set back from the street, opened in August and anticipates grand opening on October 1.  It will use an exclusive partnership with the local grower that owners say will assure supply and highest quality for cannabis customers and employ Salem people in numerous farming and retail positions.

Food cart pod

Working with the property owner and City of Salem, the partners are creating an original destination for food, drink, recreation, relaxation conversation and fun.  They will transform the 13,500 s.f. empty lot in front of the dispensary into a Portland-style food cart pod with up to 20 pods and vendors.  Fenced in, landscaped with shrubs and rain gardens, Warren says he envisions offerings of ribs, Vietnamese food, Mexican food and more.

“We’ve already approached by several vendors who heard by word of mouth and want to be part of it,” he says.  With a working title of ‘Portlandia,’ Warren’s goal is to be a strong economic engine for the north Salem area.  “We’re definitely transforming this area and bringing a vibe for the better to the city,” he says.

He reports numerous positive, productive interactions with City of Salem’s Public Works and Building and Safety departments and is “now conferring with the Site Planning people.  We’re from this area and it’s kind of nice to serve our community,” he says.

Grown organically in Salem

The ‘grower’ in the equation is Taylor, who honed his craft while working with other exacting growers known as The Green Avengers, aka TGA, who for nearly 15 years have improved medicinal cannabis by creating superior strains.

Now 7 Leaf’s cannabis flower, concentrates, and edibles are exclusively sourced from Taylor’s cannabis supply company, which he co-owns, R&J Organic Crop Development.

Taylor has developed roughly 20 strains with TGA, including a few that are consistently recognized by High Times Magazine as among the top ten in the country.  “We have multiple indoor growing locations in Salem,” he says.  “At this point we employ 10 people in our grow area, and we anticipate with recreational market that we may see over 20 new jobs created in a very short time.”

Taylor’s employees prep, trim, water, stake and cure the high grade, organic cannabis.

“I heard about TGA and Joel’s products long before I met him,” Warren says.  “Patients would seek out products made by R&J because they trusted them.”

Taylor enjoys both the science and creativity of creating new strains.  Historically, he says, “anything with a high CBD content looks heinous, basically like ditch weed.”  For example, a strain like Harlequin “is a high CBD plant, but it’s ugly, with awful bag appeal and aroma.”  Meanwhile, the strain called Jack the Ripper “has almost no CBD but very high THC and the most amazing lemon aroma with resins that are off the chart.”

Taylor’s company combined the two to create Pennywise.  “Now you have a plant with medicinal value, high resin content and an almost 1 – for – 1 THC – CBD ratio.  It’s a beautiful, effective product for our patients.”

Products created by R&J Organics make up roughly 90% of what is sold at 7 Leaf.  The businessmen especially value R&J’s high quality Co2 oil.

“We are filing a big hole in the industry by making Co2 Oil that can be relied on,” Taylor says.  “By controlling the process from seed, to flower, to oil, we are in a better position to adapt to any issues that arise.  Our company takes pride in quality control and we understand that the structure of our business model is what will give us an advantage.”

More on the way

“We want to provide an environment that will make everybody proud,” Warren says, with a clean and welcoming dispensary, and reliable products.  Plans are underway to include a ‘grow shop’ at the Hawthorne location, with garden supplies for those who want to ‘grow their own’ and a separate, recreational dispensary in a different space than medicinal sales.

7 Leaf will take this on “if space allows it,” Warren says.  “We want to prioritize our medical patients.  We have medical patients who are concerned that with a growing recreational market they will lose their supply of quality products to recreational.  We are making sure that doesn’t happen.”

The men have enjoyed their interactions with customers, employees and the governments that regulate them.

“This industry is coming out of the black market,” Warren says, “and that means we need to work hard to earn the trust of our city and our local consumers for both medicinal and recreational products.”