| Appleton Post-Crescent
If you live on the north side of Appleton or frequent the Northland Mall area, you may have recently noticed a new development on Richmond Street: a large sign for “THE Dispensary.”
Wait, a dispensary? In Wisconsin?
Marijuana is not legal in Wisconsin, but the state legalized industrial hemp in 2017, followed by the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized hemp nationwide. Since then, stores marketing products made from cannabidiol (CBD) oil, an extract found in cannabis plants, have sprouted up all over Wisconsin.
THE Dispensary opened its first storefront in November at 2929 N. Richmond St. in Appleton, joining a small but growing number of Delta-8 THC dispensaries in Wisconsin. Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a less psychoactive analog of Delta-9 THC, the main form of THC found in a cannabis plant.
Delta-8 THC is legal in Wisconsin as long as it meets the definition of “hemp,” according to documents from the Wisconsin Legislative Council acquired by the Post-Crescent. Hemp is defined as a cannabis plant that contains 0.3% or less THC content by dry weight. Any cannabis plant with more than 0.3% THC content is classified as marijuana. If a CBD or Delta-8 product is derived from a hemp plant, Wisconsin deems it legal.
Although hemp-derived Delta-8 products are legal, they are still psychoactive, meaning they can affect the mind when consumed.
“Since it has that [intoxication factor], we have to make sure that it’s done in the right way,” Will Nething, President and CEO of Hemp 4 Heroes LLC, said.
Hemp 4 Heroes, the Green Bay-based parent company of THE Dispensary, is working to ensure such products are produced, distributed and consumed cleanly and safely.
THE Dispensary’s products include edibles, which come in cookie, gummi and chocolate form; vaporizers, available in 28 flavors as cartridges or disposables; flower strains, which can be weighed out or purchased pre-rolled; and dab extracts. All of THE Dispensary’s products are derived from hemp grown at Hemp 4 Heroes’ greenhouse in Green Bay. The products are then processed and tested at H4H’s laboratory, a certified food-grade facility, also in Green Bay.
THE Dispensary takes great care in its CBD production, only allowing the most quality of products to reach its storefront, Nething said.
“This isn’t a headshop,” he said. “We’re not trying to be the old Bob Marley and stoned. We want it to be a very nice clean, professional environment.”
Nething and his associates have been in the hemp-growing business for several years. A University of Wisconsin-Green Bay graduate and 20-year Army veteran, Nething founded Hemp 4 Heroes (H4H) in October 2017. H4H launched Apothecary, an online store for its premium CBD products, in late 2018. Nething is a member of the Wisconsin Hemp Alliance, which aims to remove legal barriers to the production of hemp and sale if hemp-based products.
H4H’s goal is twofold: To safely distribute hemp-derived CBD products and to assist military veterans in finding employment and rehabilitation. They hire veterans for the “dedicated work it takes to produce quality products,” according to their website. H4H is also a partner in the Brown County-based non-profit Operation Community Cares and has helped deliver essential items to hundreds of homes amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Since opening, THE Dispensary has served a diverse clientele, averaging roughly 90 visitors a day, including customers hoping to find relief from the symptoms of severe medical conditions, Nething said.
Customers have said they prefer THE Dispensary’s Delta-8 products because they’re just as effective as marijuana, but less psychoactive, Nething said.
“We’ve had people who come in here with fibromyalgia, arthritis, cancer — we’ve had all those patients come in here already, and they’re stoked,” Nething said. THE Dispensary has also been popular with older clients, who enjoy the products because they help them sleep at night.
“I have tried [CBD] in many forms for relief without any success. I have also been on a pharmacy of pain medications that are absolutely terrible for you,” one customer said. “I happened to be in the middle of a flare up the first time I tried this… I have relief for the first time in years and am beyond ecstatic.”
“I tried [Delta-8] gummies. I used it medicinally for anxiety and back pain,” another customer said. “I couldn’t believe how well it worked.”
H4H has plans for 10 locations across the state. THE Dispensary’s Fond du Lac store at 113 N. Main St. opened on Feb. 8. Their Sheboygan location at 2113 S. Business Dr. will have its grand opening on Feb. 27, Nething said, and they’re in talks regarding stores in Oshkosh and Milwaukee. They’ve also looked at Manitowoc, La Crosse and Sun Prairie as potential markets.
Wisconsin is late to the party in terms of marijuana legalization. The city of Madison decriminalized marijuana late last year, but Wisconsin otherwise remains one of 13 states where the drug is fully illegal. Wisconsin residents seeking to legally acquire marijuana have traveled to Illinois, Iowa, Michigan or Minnesota, Wisconsin’s neighbors who have all at least legalized the drug medically.
Gov. Tony Evers on Feb. 16 proposed legalizing marijuana in Wisconsin, a proposal that has already received strong push back from Republicans who control the state Legislature.
If it happens, marijuana legalization in Wisconsin would not change how THE Dispensary operates, according to Nething, and he doesn’t think it would have a significant impact on his business.
“There’s a lot of people that actually like the Delta-8 more [than marijuana], because it’s not as psychoactive,” Nething said. “It’ll impact us a little bit, but because of the difference and how it impacts the body, I think it’ll allow us to keep our own separate market.”
It’s also worth noting that, even if marijuana is legalized, Delta-8 products will likely remain significantly cheaper and won’t be subject to the same cannabis tax as marijuana, he said.
Nething and his team hope to integrate into Wisconsin communities, and educate customers on what can be a complex and intimidating subject.
“We don’t want to be just a dispensary. We want to be a place where people come because they can get products that they enjoy, but at the same time know it’s a safe, controlled, family environment and that whole concept of working as a community,” he said.
THE Dispensary is open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. More information is available at thed8dispensary.com.