The vision behind the creation of the brand and dispensary known as Solful was to invent a dispensary model that didn’t really exist yet—a cannabis business that sells only sungrown flowers and partners only with cannabis brands that meet a strict set of production standards.
Over the past five years, Solful has developed into a one-of-a-kind brand that has won numerous accolades for its unique dispensary values. Solful has received the “Best Cannabis Dispensary” award from The Press Democrat’s Readers’ Choice Awards since 2019—a testament to its ongoing dedication to quality. In February, Solful was also named in Leafly’s “Cannabis buyer’s guide to outstanding outdoor flower of 2021” as the best in the state of California. In April, Solful’s CEO and co-founder Eli Melrod was included in the North Bay Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 list.
High Times spoke with Melrod about Solful’s origin, the quality of sungrown cannabis, and the brand’s dedication to supporting local cannabis growers in the Emerald Triangle.
Here Comes the Sol
Melrod was first introduced to cannabis after he learned of his father’s pancreatic cancer diagnosis 20 years ago. Although his father was only given six months to live, medical cannabis helped treat his nausea and increase his appetite, allowing him to endure chemotherapy.
Melrod grew up in San Francisco, eventually attending a high school in the Haight-Ashbury District, made famous for its historic role in the development of cannabis culture starting in the 1960s, and later traveled to the East Coast for school. But by 2015, Melrod returned to Sonoma County, where his dad had relocated following his battle with cancer. He started working in a cannabis testing lab, which connected him to many local cultivators, manufacturers, and dispensary owners, but he noticed the current state of traditional dispensaries was less than ideal.
“In particular, back in 2015, every dispensary that I went into felt sort of like a head shop or like something really clinical,” he says.
Furthermore, he realized that few of these dispensaries celebrated sungrown, craft cannabis from the Emerald Triangle. Acting on this insight, Melrod met with a friend of his father’s, entrepreneur Peter Dickstein, to seek business advice. Eventually, Melrod and Dickstein partnered as co-founders, and Solful was born.
“I still feel like, I can’t really believe this is my life and my job because it was really a dream to build this dispensary vision that did everything I really thought a dispensary should do,” Melrod says.
Quality is Key
Melrod’s vision to reinvent the traditional dispensary model was inspired by a commitment to supporting Northern California cultivators. Solful works with and buys directly from cannabis farms that grow 100% outdoors.
“In this day and age, it’s really rare for retailers to actually work directly with small heritage farmers in Northern California,” Melrod says. “In fact, I think we might be one of the only retailers in our entire region that does that, where we buy direct.”
Solful works with many farms in Northern California, such as Glentucky Family Farm, Alpenglow Farms, Moon Gazer Farms, and Esensia Gardens. Melrod is confident that sungrown cannabis from passionate growers such as these contains diverse properties that set them apart from indoor-grown flowers.
“If you come into Solful, you’re not just gonna find a bunch of like Wedding Cake Gelato that was grown indoors. You’re gonna find all kinds of really unique strains,” Melrod says. “[Strains] that are rich in THCV, [strains] that are rich in rare terpenes like ocimene, you know, just this huge diversity and this real celebration of the craft heritage farmer in Northern California.”
Solful also carries a wide variety of other cannabis products, all of which also meet their strict standards. Brands such as Garden Society, Care By Design, Heritage Hash Co., and Rose Delights are just a few that have passed muster.
“So we have exacting standards of what we will and won’t allow in every category,” Melrod explains. “So in our edibles, we don’t allow any sort of artificial food coloring or flavorings or sweeteners, anything like that. In vapes, we always don’t allow any sort of additives. So we don’t allow any, you know, glycerin or glycols, or any of that stuff. We have specific exacting standards in every category to make sure that our products are safe and effective.”
Solful is so confident in the satisfaction and quality of these products that it offers a “happiness guarantee” return policy.
“You can literally buy an eighth of pot at Solful, and if you hate it, you can come back, and we’ll make it right. We have a full exchange policy,” Melrod says. “I can guarantee you if you try full-term organic outdoor that’s testing at like 4.5% terpenes it is gonna be better than anything you’ve ever tried in your life. That was my experience. I grew up buying indoor cannabis thinking that was top shelf or whatever and like, point blank, you will never be able to replicate the sun, you will never achieve the like spectrum of terpenes, cannabinoids, and other compounds you will get from living soil full-term cannabis.”
Solful currently has two dispensaries, located in Sebastopol and Santa Rosa, California, with another location set to open in San Francisco before the end of 2022.
This article was originally published in the October 2022 issue of High Times Magazine.