The first Ward 7 medical cannabis dispensary, Cannabliss, opened its doors on Aug. 14, at 4721 Sheriff Road NE in Deanwood. Unlike other such facilities,it houses a unique upstairs “safe use” lounge designed to serve Section 8 patients, who are forbidden by their leases to consume medical marijuana in their apartments. Construction on the lounge is now under way and scheduled to open in 2020. Patients can find information about the store online at www.shopCannablissDC.com.
“Walking through Cannabliss is similar to walking through an Apple store,” explained owner Norbert Pickett. “We’re striving to offer a clean and unique user experience for each patient when they come in. Our slogan is, ‘Community, Culture, Cannabis,’ and we take that very seriously. We’re more than just a dispensary; we are a way of life and a lifestyle brand.”
Support in the community has been overwhelming, said Pickett. “Seventy percent of my staff is from Ward 7 and half of the staff is from Deanwood,” he said. “I wanted to make sure the community was involved and that I was creating opportunities for women and people of color.”
Cannabliss has created 22 new jobs. Pickett also plans to open an urgent care facility next door within the year. This will create another 40 jobs, he said.
Pickett kicked off the grand opening of Cannabliss with a block party, unveiling a community mural on the side of what used to be known as Dave’s Liquor Store, a legacy business in the community.
The Man Behind Cannabliss
Boston University alum Pickett is no stranger to adversity. After completing a successful D1 basketball career, pursuing a marketing career for several DC sports teams and eventually landing himself a casting director job for “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” he found himself permanently disabled after being rear-ended at a Los Angeles stoplight.
“I had 18 procedures and four major spinal surgeries on my cervical and lumbar,” says Pickett. “I was on five different opioids at once as well as muscle relaxers and had to learn to walk again twice.”
Pickett didn’t like the way the drugs were making him feel. After several rounds of surgeries and countless treatment suggestions from doctors, including a “morphine button” to administer a drop every time he felt pain, he says he found the most relief with medical cannabis.
“After being introduced to THC and CBD,” says Pickett, referring to tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol, “I was able to transition off the heavy narcotics.” He explains, “I have a better quality of life and am able to raise my son without being addicted to pain pills.”
Pickett’s son is also a main reason he decided to make the move back to DC. “I wanted him to be around black businessmen, lawyers and politicians that would influence him in a positive way and have a bigger impact on his upbringing,” says Pickett.
Moving from LA to DC, Pickett found that cannabis prices in the District were 20% higher than the rest of the country. “I took it upon myself to lower the cost and give patients access to safe cannabis,” he says. “These communities [Ward 7 and 8] are notorious for being underserved and not paid attention to.”
Moving Medical Cannabis Forward
Pickett is a cannabis activist. He is concerned about the District’s CBD exemption rule which forbids dispensaries from selling CBD, while consumers are allowed to buy it off the shelves of any retailer. CBD sold outside dispensaries is not guaranteed free of pesticides and other harmful chemicals.
“We’re also working to shut down the local ‘pop up shops’ where individuals are selling cannabis flower and cartridges that have pesticides and lead on the black market,” said Pickett. “It’s a public health risk.”
In his opinion, the most pressing issue in the DC cannabis community is the District’s limitation on cannabis cultivators of 1,000 plants. “Cultivators were previously only growing for five dispensaries,” he explains,” but now there isn’t enough medicine (cannabis) for the additional two.”
The plant limit makes it difficult for dispensaries to manufacture other products such as edibles and suppositories, Pickett said. These medicines have been proven to help with a number of conditions including chronic pain. “No one tells farmers how many plants to grow,” says Pickett, “and it is not appropriate here when it comes to a plant that is effectively treating patients in the community.”
“Cannabliss is the first solely black-owned dispensary in the DC area and will continue to pride itself on the integration of the community,” said Pickett.
Chloe Detrick is a communications consultant and freelance writer. Most frequently, she writes about community events, diversity in leadership and cannabis/drug policy. You can follow her writing and other ramblings on Twitter.