By Jess Winans
Driving down Camino del Rio South you may see one, two or three spinning “Cannabis 21+” signs pointing you to one of San Diego’s only recreationally exclusive dispensaries: San Diego Recreational Cannabis (SDRC).
SDRC, located at 1299 Camino del Rio S., is owned and operated by couple Tara and Sean St. Peter who opened it in January of 2018 following the legalization of recreational marijuana use in California.
Mission Valley News sat down with Tara from SDRC to discuss the changing marijuana industry, recreational marijuana usage, cannabidiol (CBD) and their inspiration.
Why did you decide to open your dispensary in Mission Valley? What was it about the area that enticed you?
“It is very hard to find a location to open a cannabis dispensary. The city only allows four per district and SDRC was the third license in this location. It has to be away from schools and parks. This place is a prime location. I think it’s the best in San Diego — it’s in Mission Valley, it’s next to Hotel Circle, there’s 34 million tourists and 17 million of those are overnight stays and it’s also the seventh largest city. It’s right off of the [Interstate] 8 providing easy access and parking. I couldn’t ask for a better location.”
How long have you been working in the marijuana industry?
I’ve been in the industry for 10-plus years and I have a corporate background of accounting. My husband and business partner, Sean, is a military veteran who got into cannabis for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Long story short, [cannabis] changed his life and our life. I wasn’t always supportive in the beginning, but over time I saw these benefits of cannabis and now it’s my industry. I left the corporate sector about 10 years ago to come help him run businesses.
Is this your first marijuana endeavor?
We’re not new to the San Diego cannabis industry, we had shops from 2008 to 2011. After the ordinance was repealed in 2011, I spent some time in Washington’s recreational market, not into the retail side, but manufacturing in a 30,000-square-foot facility of cannabis and edibles. I really have a lot of experience in the recreational market.
What are your thoughts on the recent legalization of recreational marijuana?
I think it’s about time. It’s time to tax it. It’s time to regulate it. It’s time to have safe access to it. It has been legal medically since 1996 but it wasn’t regulated like people thought it was. Nothing was tested. Most marijuana came from people coming into shops with backpacks on or growers coming from their houses.
The best thing legal recreational weed can do is one, bring in tax revenue, and two test for pesticides and make sure everything is consistent and products are safe for consumption. That’s why it’s important. The average consumer doesn’t think that. They think, ‘I’ve been buying medical cannabis at a dispensary for so long’ but it hasn’t been tested and it hasn’t been regulated.
Now, the state has set so many high standards after seeing Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Nevada’s regulation for pesticides and all that. Now, any cannabis has to go through this testing. I’m only allowed to purchase through licensed distributors who already went through this testing. That’s the best thing I think. You know what you’re smoking. It’s not being sprayed with miracle grow.
You have a section of your store presenting information about CBD. What is CBD? How is it different than marijuana?
I want the area to be an interactive learning space and I’m working on adding more to it. CBD is for people who have work to do or they have kids to take care of and they can’t be high all day. CBD has no psychoactive effects to it but it has so many benefits that can help people. There have been doctors who came in who are working with things like opioids and they basically want to have an alternative or a center where people can go. Not necessarily a medical place, but an outlet for people to say, “You know what, this place is a licensed place that has these options for you.” That was my thinking behind the CBD area.
A new customer walks into your store and has never tried recreational marijuana before: What do you say?
Really everyone who comes into our door is new to the cannabis industry. Most of my customers who come through here are first-time smokers or first-time cannabis users who saw my billboards, saw the sign that says “Cannabis 21+,” or they’re tourists.
I’ve had people who looked us up in Florida and came here. What we are is a cannabis destination and that’s what we’re trying to do. That’s what our motto is. A recreational destination.
What we want to be is any recreational needs you have, you can get that here whether you smoke going up Cowles Mountain or you smoke and go to the gym and need something to help your muscles to relax, whether you, not medically, need help sleeping with edibles. Whether you smoke or eat it — we have something for everybody.
What would you say to critics of recreational marijuana?
It’s everywhere. Look on Craigslist right now — you should want it in a facility that’s required to have armed guards 24 hours a day. You should want it in a place that has surveillance 24 hours a day. You should want it in a place that’s paying taxes, because if it’s not here, it’s on the streets. It is right now. It has to be regulated and safe to smoke.
What do you think will be the next big thing in the marijuana industry?
Recreational. It’s just starting. We’re creating the market for recreational cannabis. We’re doing things that have never been done before — things have been done medically maybe, but even our setup is different than any medical store.
We do not share inventory, we have 10 separate check-out stations and each station has its own inventory. That’s how we’re able to move customers in and out but also have a personal experience. People come here and have their different needs for smoking and their different reasons why they come to the store, but it’s still a personalized experience. You’re able to talk with someone that can fit you in for the right product.
It’s not medicine, they’re not patients, they’re customers. And everything here has to be pre-packaged, pre-weighed and placed in childproof packaging. It then leaves my store in an exit bag that is child resistant and given away for free.
How has Mission Valley responded to the dispensary?
The neighborhood has been pretty welcoming. We’re just average people providing a nice environment where people feel comfortable and safe. I can’t tell you how many couples I see coming in for date night or how many families I see. We welcome groups and pets and I can’t tell you how many times people come in and they’re scared. We had some people come in from a church and it was two older ladies and they were just scared.
Everybody who comes in doesn’t know what to expect from a cannabis store because there is so much stigma. We want to break the stigma down and let people know that there’s no difference between coming in here and going to the Apple store or any other retail store. It doesn’t smell like marijuana, it’s clean, professional and we value customer service. Our sales associates are warm and welcoming.
I know how me and my husband shop. We’re Walmart great-value-type shoppers and that’s what we want — we want to offer quality-tested nice products but at an affordable price where people can feel like they’re getting a good deal but still contribute to paying taxes. It’s no different than any other taxes on things you buy.
What’s next for SDRC?
Delivery, shuttle services and more community outreach. I’d love to volunteer at food banks or help other nonprofits. There are so many nonprofits I’d love to contribute to. We are also looking to open a second location.
For more information about SDRC or to see their list of products, visit sandiegorecreationalcannabis.com.
— Jess Winans is editorial assistant at SDCNN, parent company of Mission Valley News. Reach her at email@example.com.