Last year Deniece and Ron Isaacs opened up Magical Gardens, a specialty CBD shop in Kenai that sells hemp and CBD products for people and animals. Fast forward to November, and the Isaacs have a new business right next door, with a slightly different name and a slightly different selection of products.
Majestic Gardens is the Isaacs’ new cannabis shop, and they sat down with the Clarion on Friday to talk about navigating the Alaskan cannabis industry and the differences between selling CBD and THC products.
Was it always your plan to have the CBD shop and the cannabis shop side-by-side?
Deniece Isaacs: Well, I went to a hemp fair up in Anchorage and saw the attraction of it. There’s a lot of diseases and different things in my family, and that’s what took us down the road of CBD. And I’ve just always been a fan of the marijuana plant, so that kind of led me there originally.
How has reception been since you opened?
Deniece Isaacs: Slow but good. We’re really pleased with all the people being very warm and welcome. Business is picking up and we’re learning how to do everything, so it’s picking up at a nice pace.
Are the regulations when it comes to cannabis stricter than with CBD?
Deniece Isaacs: Absolutely. There are no regulations for CBD. And with cannabis, there are a lot.
Ron Issacs: In the Farm Bill, they (the federal government) legalized CBD oils and salves, and of course our state hasn’t made any regulations on it, yet.
Other businesses around here offer CBD products and cannabis products in one store, so what made you decide on this model?
Deniece Isaacs: With the marijuana industry, there’s a lot of risk. And there’s only me and my husband, we have no investors. We met right here 37 years ago and it’s just us and our lives here. In the event that something went wrong with the cannabis industry or the store, I wanted to keep the stores totally separate so that they would not affect each other. Charlotte’s Web is one of our primary oils next door and they have very strict guidelines on which people can sell their products. We signed contracts to abide by those rules, so we could not have Charlotte’s Web in this store.
Ron Isaacs: There’s also a lot of people that, well they still just don’t want to go into a THC store.
So there’s still somewhat of a stigma attached to cannabis?
Deniece Issacs: Oh, absolutely. We get shunned a lot. There are many people that feel very strongly against marijuana because they don’t understand everything about it.
What do you think you can do to fight that stigma?
Deniece Isaacs: Well there is a conference going on in Anchorage in the next month and they’ll have a lot of educational speakers. We have literature over in the other store and there’s a lot of information coming out now that can help everyone understand the different aspects of marijuana, how it affects us, and how it affects us recreationally. That’s what our state is all about, recreational, so that’s where we need to focus. There’s many different delivery methods that you can have now. In the old days it was just a couple of forms, you either smoked it or you ate it in butter and that was kind of it. Now we can vape it, we can eat it, we can smoke it, we can dab it, we can do a lot of different things with it. Which ends up making it a lot healthier for you in some respects.
Ron Isaacs: THC has got a lot of benefits to it, and they’re coming out with more research every day.
There are a lot of industries up here that still include marijuana as part of drug testing their employees. Do you think that will change?
Deniece Isaacs: I think that there will be improvement. Soon we will have methods in which to tell whether someone is intoxicated while driving, they’ll be able to tell more about when the time frame of ingestion was. There’s varying degrees, because whether you smoke it or ingest it, the length of time that it stays in your body is very different. The other states that are ahead of us in the industry are leading those improvements. It’s just like the difficulties that everyone is experiencing with smells. You can’t make a restaurant not smell like a restaurant, nor a bakery, nor a brewery or winery. In our regulations we’re trying not to offend other people while at the same time maintaining our state of business.
Do you offer any discounts or deals?
Deniece Isaacs: We have a 4/20 special every day of the week, and then we have special of the month at a price that’s competitive with the black market.
Speaking of the black market, how do you deal with that here?
Deniece Isaacs: When you get it from the black market, you don’t know what you’re getting. It’s not cleaned, it’s not tested, you don’t know what kind of pesticides were used. Marijuana is an accumulative plant, meaning it absorbs everything around it as it grows. We inspect our cannabis here with a fine-toothed comb, using a microscope and other instruments. So even though our state doesn’t require it, there are many things within our store that we require ourselves. We’re trying to hold ourselves to a higher standard than the street market so that people will want to come here, and they will know that what they are getting is as safe, convenient and reliable as anything you could purchase at a grocery store.
So when you receive product from local growers you inspect it in your store?
Deniece Isaacs: Yes, we inspect it prior to even purchasing anything. We go over with a microscope, we break it open, smell it, look at the crystals, and we sample it to make sure it falls into the lines of our standards. There are many things you can do with the plant to make it taste better… or worse. It’s easy to mess up.
Any plans for the future?
Ron Isaacs: We plan on cultivating a little bit in the back soon. We’re trying to get the money together for the license and we’ve been approved by the city for it, so that’s our next goal.
What would you say is the biggest hurdle for cannabis businesses right now?
Deniece Isaacs: The banking. Banking is a dangerous, dangerous, issue. We have to move forward. In Colorado, I’ve seen people using debit cards to make purchases. There are ways of doing this to help us get away from the black market. That needs to happen. There are so many people in our industry that are having their bank accounts and credit cards just swiped out from underneath them. To have your credit and your banking taken from you is devastating. The banks have to be very careful in who they deal with, because federally it’s still an illegal drug.
Ron Isaacs: The banks are FDA approved, and they don’t want to lose that. They just won’t even take the chance, even though the government is our partner. They take their cut at the end of the year.
Deniece Isaacs: Yes they do, and they’re figuring out more ways of taking their cuts. They are now trying to implement things that will make it impossible for people to come in to the industry. They’re making it much more difficult for those in the future.
Do you think that cannabis could be an industry that helps revitalize Alaska’s economy?
Ron: It is. It’s put quite a few people to work already.
Deniece: Thousands of people it’s put to work. The packaging industry, the gas, the grow, the stores, the equipment –
Ron: The insurance companies…
Deniece: Oh yes the insurance companies! We must mention them.
Ron: And as we grow a little more, I don’t know where we’ll wind up in the future, but I do know it’s put a lot of people to work and helped a lot of people in this state.
Deniece: It’s formed a whole new control board! When you really start to think about everyone that it touches, it’s quite amazing.
Majestic Gardens is located at 12656 Kenai Spur Hwy in Kenai, Alaska. Business hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Call them at (907) 953-4872.