Budding Aspirations

Radio Free Richmond
By:

blogimage.jpgRebecca Vasquez is the successful founder of the now 4000-patient strong Holistic Healing Collective in Richmond.  She recently won a prestigious award from the National Association of Professional Women honoring her achievements in entrepreneurship. 

For Rebecca, the road to owning a thriving business in Richmond has not been an easy one. In fact, she says that opening her medical cannabis dispensary has proved one of the hardest things she has ever accomplished.

In 2008, Vasquez decided to attend Oaksterdam University after she decided to capitalize on the beginning trend of professional dispensaries. She attended the famous program with the aspiration of opening her own medical cannabis dispensary. She graduated having studied horticulture, politics, legal issues, cooking, bud tending, medical cannabis distribution, and dispensary management. She headed to Richmond shortly after with high hopes.

Opening Holistic Healing Collective, she found quick success. Rebecca was in charge of all the logistical details of opening and operating the storefront. She successfully ran the dispensary for 9 months, helping grow its membership to over 750 patients.

An instant hit with local patients who previously had to travel to Oakland or San Francisco for their medicine, the business seemed to be in great shape. Unfortunately, in July 2010 Rebecca closed the doors due to new medical cannabis regulations passed by the Richmond City Council. Vasquez shares the frustration of many owners in the new industry who must adapt and endure fluid regulations and changing local laws.

Vasquez has always tried to stay ahead of requirements, but she was still forced to close her old Point Richmond location as the City Council sought to organize and better regulate dispensaries in the city. In response, Vasquez quickly secured a new location that met all the criteria of the new regulations but was forced to engage in a lengthy and expensive two-year process with the city to finally re-open her doors in June 2012.

Vasquez had to not only pay for expensive legal services to advise her business, but also pay rent for two years on her new property until Richmond issued her a permit to operate in the city.  Applying for the permit alone cost her over $17,000. She had no guarantee it would be granted. In fact, other dispensaries originally won out for initial permits before she finally received one.

Vasquez became active in local politics and tries to help the city council understand her business and the medical cannabis industry. When asked about the future of her business, Vasquez remarked she would not start a new dispensary from scratch ever again. Still, she hopes to expand her current location or possibly purchase an already established additional dispensary in the future.

Vasquez takes pride in the quality of her menu of medicine and takes care to follow local regulations and state law. Her full list of products is available at www.holistichealingcollective.org. Business is good now, but Vasquez learned that starting a successful dispensary took far more than good product. Patience and adaptability also proved key ingredients to success. 

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