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Jun 27, 2016 9:25 AM

Center of Solar Power and Cannabis

“Medical cannabis—what could be more fitting to take us into the 21st century?” said John Schaeffer. And once you enter the Solar Living Center in Hopland, California, you find yourself inside the best symbiotic mixture of tradition, nature, and the most prominent technology of the 21st century.

Magical transformation

Solar Living Center is an impressive twelve-acre demonstration site that shows what the perfect place for science, agriculture, and relaxation should look like. Maintained by Solar Living Institute, it contains biodynamic gardening, green buildings, water fountains, a garden for children, and everything is working on solar energy. There are even six-station bicycle generators and a Tesla car charging station.

It really looks like you are entering the Garden of Eden of the future: you see smiling people around, the nature is amazing, flowers send their tender aroma. “I see a lot of people walking around here just all blissed out,” says General Manager Chelsea Lucich.

It is difficult to believe that only twenty years ago this place was lifeless, full of debris, and no one could ever imagine this could bring any profit. A former dumping ground, now the Solar Living Center is totally based on renewable energy and sustainable technologies. It has a lush landscape with a heart-shaped lily pond and some other perfectly designed details that attract the visitors.

Cannabis strand

However, people also come here for another reason. This place hosts Emerald Pharms, a solar-powered cannabis dispensary. Being a newly opened company, it has yet to advertise. However, it does not mean they do not have anything to offer. On the contrary, the selection of high-quality cannabis products, including cannabidiol (CBD) therapeutics, tinctures, topicals, and all kinds of edibles is impressive.

John Schaeffer, founder of Real Goods Trading Company and the Solar Living Institute, admits that their mission has always been to find something that would combine all their beliefs altogether, that would address all the environmental issues and get people away from the polluting ways. And Emerald Pharms, with its medical applications of CBD, was exactly what they had been looking for.

The cannabidiol compound of cannabis has been recognized worldwide as an effective remedy for a great number of diseases and disorders. And for patients it is vitally important to get not just CBD products but ecologically friendly and absolutely clean products. This is how the idea of cooperation between these two companies popped up.

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Synergetic combination

Schaeffer remembers that back in 1978, when the solar company was founded, it had already been intertwined with the cannabis industry. At the time, Real Goods sold their first photovoltaic lights for quite an impressive price: $100 a watt.

The only ones who could afford such price and needed these lights to live off grid were cannabis growers. So in a certain way, we may say, the cannabis industry supported the solar movement. Now it is time to repay, so the solar panels allow the growers to grow cannabis out in the woods in a clean and eco-friendly way.

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Project CBD

Schaeffer considers Real Goods Solar Living Center an unusual company whose methods rarely represent the latest trend but nevertheless are “wildly innovative.” And the Project CBD they started is also not a usual project.

This is a non-profit educational group that works together with Emerald Pharms. This group serves as a consultant for the dispensary, helps establish a native medicinal marijuana garden, and also manages the marijuana museum on the territory of the Solar Living Center.

This project promotes cannabis not as a drug but as a medicinal herb. “It’s a very special medicinal herb, but actually it’s one medicinal herb among many,” says Martin Lee, the director and co-founder of Project CBD. There are plenty of different herbs that are considered to have medicinal benefits, and marijuana should be looked at as simply another one, believes Lee.

And this collaboration is not just a beautiful idea, it brings quite a real profit: since the Project CBD and Emerald Pharms dispensary started their work, the sales at the Real Goods retail store have increased by 50 percent.

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People's attitude

Another issue is the moral one. Every year, a couple of thousands of school kids come to the Solar Living Center to learn more about the alternative energy. They have an excursion all around the center, make solar cookies in the solar ovens, and enjoy the beautiful, peaceful atmosphere. It would be a great shame if the center lost them or their parents because they were “selling dope onsite.”

Luckily, this did not happen. Schaeffner says there was zero pushback about them having a dispensary in the center. After all, medical marijuana is not the same as recreational. According to the rules of Mendocino County, the resource center is allowed to sell medical marijuana. Everyone can explore the dispensary, but only verified medical marijuana patients can buy the products.

Since October 2015, when the dispensary opened for the first time, the main part of the visitors of the Emerald Pharms have been the patients who needed CBD treatment. They confessed that this dispensary looked more open and welcoming than other ones, not to mention more stylish. The friendly atmosphere is what older patients are looking for, they want to feel comfortable.

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Ambitious future

Inside Emerald Pharms, you feel safe and calm. Lots of wooden details, beautiful glass cases with the products: one for edibles, one for concentrates and flowers, and another one for topicals and tinctures. Big windows all around the room give a nice view of the pond and green gardens. Inside, you can sit on the comfortable white sofas and drink a glass of tea.

Lee admits he wants to see this place not only as a store but also as a kind of touristic attraction with an educational hue. Lucich adds that they are always happy to provide their clients with “medi-quette.” The workers in the dispensary are not doctors, so they cannot know what medicine every patient requires. That is why they try to “tune into what they are saying” and help them guide themselves through the dispensary's selection of medicine.

The trick is, there is no universal medicine for everyone. There is a recommended dose and a recommended THC to CBD ratio, but every patient requires a personal approach. “We try to inspire people to just experiment with it,” says Lucich adding that their medicine is not harmful, and even if someone accidentally overdoes it, it will just cause a sleepy state or tiredness.

This summer, the Solar Living Center will celebrate 20 years. And their ambitions are growing bigger and becoming more exciting. If legalization occurs in November, they hope to create a cannabis cultural center, where every visitor would be able to see all stages of marijuana cultivation, how it grows, how it is trimmed, how extraction facilities work, to see how much can be done with the help of a solar system and alternative fuels.

“It represents a ray of hope for the planet,” says Schaeffner about this idea. And since they promote the principles of sustainability and are the best example that it really works, their idea has all chances to succeed.

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