The Moms Behind One of Arizona’s Top Dispensaries Share Canna-Business and Parenting Advice
Lilach Power and Gina Berman do female entrepreneurs proud in a contested territory.
Published on October 14, 2016

Lilach Power and Gina Berman are elevating the game for female entrepreneurs in Arizona’s medical cannabis market. The co-owners of The Giving Tree dispensary, they have two locations in Phoenix and Mesa, offering top-shelf cannabis products as well as yoga and healing therapies, plus a 1000-plant indoor grow facility.

The two first met through Power’s husband, who worked with Berman as a physician in the ER. Both women were expecting children at the time, and bonded over motherhood as well as their similar entrepreneurial mindset. They quickly began work on several business ideas in the alternative therapy space, but none would stick financially. Still, the two had their hearts set on developing a business to help people live better.

On the way home from an ER shift one evening, Berman called Power with the idea to become part of Arizona’s brand-new medical cannabis program. Work began on their dispensary plan in 2010, with two infants at home, and the rest is history. The Giving Tree now creates safe and inviting environments for patients to obtain medicine.

Life as dispensary owners, overall, has been a blast for these ladies. Both say that flower is their best-selling product type, with concentrates moving up quickly. They also both support Prop 205, Arizona’s adult use legalization initiative, to provide more access to cannabis.

MERRY JANE spoke with the partners about their lives as canna-friendly moms and entrepreneurs.

Phoenix hasn’t always been cannabis-friendly. What’s it like operating two storefronts there?
Lilach Power:
Seeing patients’ well-being improve is amazing! Being a part of this movement is a privilege. It’s about more than a business or career—it’s changing history. Operating in Arizona makes it more challenging but also more rewarding. We’re making a difference in a market that no one thought would be in this position. Patients are thankful for medicine, we are thankful for their open minds and for spreading the word. Our team members are all as passionate as we are. They volunteer at our charity events, talk to anyone who will listen. We all share the same vision and passion about cannabis, and that makes it all worth it.

Gina Berman: The patients coming to the dispensary are trailblazers, changing the face of cannabis every day. They are wonderful and supportive. We don’t interact with detractors—people who used to profit from marijuana criminalization—unless there’s a political or legislative issue. Our communities have been supportive overall.

How did the process go for getting a dispensary license in Arizona?
Arizona’s health department divided the state into 126 Community Health Analysis Areas. If there was more than one qualified applicant per area, there was a lottery. In addition to being the most qualified applicant, the process required obtaining a physical location and rental agreement in advance, and to provide a starting investment of $150K cash-in-hand. Our main challenge was zoning! I feel like this whole industry is a real estate game. It was hard to find a location that was zoned correctly, and even harder to find people willing to rent to us.

GB: The process was straightforward in that the rules were clear, but there were definitely challenges. For example, how do you put together a business plan for an industry that doesn’t exist? How do you develop policies and procedures for a business that doesn’t exist? We could only use Colorado and California data, because Arizona regulation was informed from both the successes and failures of the programs that came before us.

Delays also caused major difficulties. Gov. Jan Brewer’s lawsuit delayed the program for dispensaries for a year, and navigating real estate was hard because zoning ordinances are different across municipalities.

Do you meet more experienced patients or those who are brand new to cannabis culture?
On the day-to-day we have more experienced patients than new patients. We offer free private consultation to new patients and families, even if they just have questions, or if they want to sit down with their loved ones to understand this whole new world. We explain the trial-and-error process involved, and offer a generous exchange policy until we find the right medicine for each patient.

GB: Our patients are a mixed bag. We have young children on CBD-rich products, to 90-year-olds. We have everything from bicycles to Dodge Vipers in our parking lot. Men, women, all the colors of the rainbow. It’s a true melting pot.

You are both moms. How does cannabis play into your parenting?
My boys are still young (6 and 2) but I am a true believer in education. When it comes to this, I will discuss it openly and make them aware of what I do. It’s great to see the change in society, the change in how people look at cannabis and users. I want to believe we are a part of that. Our kids will grow up in a world that ended prohibition! It’s exciting to be a part of it.

GB: It doesn’t change my parenting style. I adopted that from my parents: Be honest, be open, be present. Teaching moments pop up when you least expect it. I am also Board Certified in Addiction Medicine, my husband is a physician, and we will talk about it. The kids overhear, they ask questions, I answer them. It’s always been my position that you have to be honest about drugs, including marijuana. Knowledge and awareness are power. Part of my job as a parent is to empower my children, and I believe that comes from factual knowledge and not propaganda or fearmongering. “Just say NO” is powerful when that individual has decided for themselves that that’s what they want and believe is right, not because someone else is trying to program them.  

What advice do you have for cannabis entrepreneurs in emerging markets?
Understand that this is a business like any other and you have to run it that way. Choose your partners carefully and focus on your mission, vision, and values. Be innovative. There is so much to explore in this industry. Find the next big thing.

GB: Be tenacious and be flexible. Be ready to pivot. This is a roller coaster industry and things can change in a heartbeat.

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Roni Stetter
Roni is a long-time cannabis advocate who has been involved in the community since her days with California's 2010 legalization campaign. A former high school athlete who successfully treated her sports injuries with medical marijuana, she now promotes the health movement on her own blog. When not writing or researching on the web, you can find her at a drum and bass show, hanging out with her dog and cat, or otherwise living the simple San Diego beach life. See what else Roni is up to on her website
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