There are a few unusual things about Panacea, a cannabis dispensary located at the eastern end of Portland’s Green Mile. Some are easily discernible, like the art gallery lobby featuring canvases from local painters. Or the fact that not all of the art is pot-centric. Some take time to notice, though: how it’s the same friendly faces attending to patients and customers on each visit. Or how committed those people are to making the world a safer, healthier place by selling weed.
Behind the curtains of an unassuming storefront is a spacious waiting area. Large enough for a bike parking pad and a couch, with room for people to move around comfortably. It feels like a boutique you might wander into on a First Friday walking tour that cool neighborhoods put on each month. The art on the walls constantly rotates, and a small display case next to the entrance promotes the featured artists’ work and vision without being intrusive.
The folks at Panacea infuse their dedication to fantastic cannabis with their broader mission. As a “triple bottom line” company, they want to have a positive impact through ethical business practices that give back to the community. Their social enterprise business model “generate[s] profits from cannabis sales to support projects, organizations, or businesses that promote social justice and address problems that threaten people and society.” A woman-owned dispensary, Panacea was founded to fund housing and services for LGBTQ elders.
“Cannabis has always been good at bringing people together, good at bringing down barriers…”
Giving all their profits to social justice might be one of the reasons everyone at Panacea seems to be in a good mood. Helping is an integral part of who they are. They even have a nurse (and cancer survivor), Rebecca White, RN, BSN, on staff to provide patient care and budtender education. Customers expect turnover at retail establishments, but here you encounter the same people – ready to answer questions, give advice, and share stories – on each visit.
Cannabis for the people
Micah is one of those people. He’s been at Panacea for two years now, and he appears blessed with a permanent smile. You can see the pride in what he does, in being able to work with and share knowledge of a thing he loves and in knowing that he’s making a difference. For Micah, and for Panacea, cannabis is about helping people get better, healing as individuals and as a society.
He tells us: “Cannabis has always been good at bringing people together, good at bringing down barriers, so it’s great to be able to do that on a larger scale, interacting with the community, having a focus on social justice.”
A place to heal
You’ll never feel rushed at Panacea, which means sometimes you’ll wait for a few minutes in the lobby while the staff takes their time with other customers. It also means Panacea is a great place to take someone on their first trip to a dispensary.
The consistency in staff allows budtenders a chance to get familiar with the plants, edibles, and concentrates they sell. Involved with the Oregon cannabis movement for a long time, they stock their shelves with products that live up to their own connoisseur-grade standards. The flower is always some of the best in Portland because these folks know what to look for. And somehow they keep their prices competitive with (and in some cases lower than) other shops on the Green Mile.
Panacea isn’t just a great place to buy some weed, it’s an example of what a socially engaged retail business can be. Committed to people as much as products. Committed to a concept of success that transcends a big bottom line number. Committed to fixing some of what is hurting us, on as many levels as possible.
“Cannabis is special in its ability to heal,” Micah beams, “and we try to honor that.”