Getting Candid on Cannabis, pt. 2

Sabrina Naomi from The Higher Path in Sherman Oaks, CA

by: Madelyn Gagnon

The Higher Path
Budtender Sabrina Naomi

Since arriving in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Sherman Oaks in 2013, local dispensary The Higher Path has earned a number of impressive accolades, including being named the city’s “Best Dispensary” in 2016 by LA Weekly. Budtender Sabrina Naomi, credits the business’ success partly to the predominantly female management staff, as well as the approachable atmosphere painstakingly curated by owner Jerred Kiloh.

The Higher Path also places a large emphasis on cannabis education for both customers and staff members, who are extensively trained to address questions and concerns unique to each patient. Naomi got candid with The Clever Root on the recent effects of recreational sales, her recommended products, and the importance of developing a deeper understanding of cannabis.

Who is the target market at The Higher Path?

Sabrina Naomi: It’s hard to say who our target market is because we are welcoming to everyone from all walks of life, but we do see a lot of older cannabis users, as well as more women, than most dispensaries do. Our owner created The Higher Path with the intention of it being a welcoming, safe place for people of all backgrounds to learn about and purchase cannabis. We tend to be very education-oriented, so we encourage all novice users to come into our shop so we can help them through the process of finding the best products for their needs. We’re also a boutique shop, so we tend to attract a higher-class clientele who are coming in to enjoy the entire Higher Path experience.

Which products are most popular with your customers?

All forms of cannabis are popular in our shop. Everybody has their own preference and taste. I would probably say that classic flower is still the most-purchased product, followed closely by vapes. People really love how discreet vaping is, so its popularity is definitely on the rise.

How have recreational sales affected dispensary foot traffic?

Recreational sales have quadrupled foot traffic and sales within our shop—it’s exciting to have been able to open up to an entirely new demographic! “Recreational” doesn’t mean people aren’t using it for medicinal purposes; I take care of so many recreational customers who simply have too much anxiety to even go get their MMJ recommendation, and now they’re able to get products that help with their anxiety without having to go to a doctor.

What sets The Higher Path apart from competing L.A. dispensaries?

One of the most noticeable differences is the culture you can see and feel that has been built in our shop. We have a very welcoming and empowering vibe—everything from our walls being filled with art from local artists to our array of complimentary beverages we have available for customers in our lobby. We also have a larger variety of products than many other shops, especially in terms of our CBD and cannabis tinctures. We also have a predominately female management staff—something that isn’t incredibly common in the cannabis industry. We’re actually being featured in Ventura Blvd magazine’s “Women in Business” issue in September/October of this year, so be on the lookout for that!

How does the Higher Path emphasize cannabis education?

We have continuous training sessions with new product knowledge implemented daily. Each budtender undergoes several days of on-the-floor training to ensure they are able to answer the patient questions and help them find products that are going to be best suited to their needs. We also have specific Cannabis Consultants on the floor daily to help with more intense or unique illnesses and ailments. These consultants are our more experienced budtenders who have a deeper understanding and knowledge of cannabis.

What do customers need to be educated on?

Customers have different levels of knowledge on cannabis; we see a lot of novices who need the whole rundown of everything starting from the differences between indica and sativa, all the way to cancer patients who need specific CBD dosing instructions and guidance. Our goal is to educate all of our customers and patients in a way that empowers them in their cannabis use—we want everyone who comes to see us to leave feeling confident in using the products they’ve purchased here.

Can you explain some misconceptions your customers typically have about cannabis?

Using cannabis does not necessarily have to mean getting high; for example, products high in CBD can have no psychoactive effects while still providing you with all of the benefits cannabis has to offer. We see a lot of customers and patients who exclusively use CBD and aren’t trying to get high at all. Another common misconception is that all different forms of cannabis will affect you the same way. Each form, whether it be smoking flower, vaping concentrates, eating edibles, or taking a sublingual tincture, will all react with your endocannabinoid system differently. For example, when guiding a novice edible eater, I get asked questions such as, “How does a 5-milligram edible compare to smoking a joint?” The answer is that it doesn’t, and you’ll have to experiment with your dose to achieve the result you’re looking for.

What important questions do you think customers should be asking budtenders?

I think more customers should be conscious of where their product is grown—including the climate that it’s cultivated in, the fertilizer used, and how many hands have touched the plant before it was packaged. A lot of people are solely concerned with the THC percent and forget about the other important factors that make up the plant’s composition. I also feel like patients should be more aware of the extraction process used for the concentrates they purchase, including which kinds of solvents were used and any other additives that have been incorporated into the concentrate. Knowing what you’re putting into your body is so important.

What is a positive impact the dispensary makes on the community?

We are a very community-oriented collective. One thing we do daily to make a positive impact is go out and clean the areas around our shop, including the areas around the shops of our neighbors. We leaf blow and pick up trash, keeping the surrounding areas as clean as we keep our own shop. We hold ourselves to a very high standard and want the community to see that and benefit from it. The Higher Path has also been a proud member of the Sherman Oaks Chamber of Commerce since 2016 and the Greater San Fernando Valley Chamber of Commerce as of this year—we love connecting with other local businesses so that we can all work together to improve our community!

What are your favorite cannabis products the dispensary carries?

My preferred product of choice is flower. One of my personal favorite brands is Canndescent—besides their beautiful packaging, which contains flower, rolling papers, matches, and a hemp wick, I also am attracted to their cultivation process: They do everything organically and even use purified water. I have never seen flower by Canndescent that has been anything less than perfect.

For more information on The Higher Path, visit thehigherpath.com.

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