eastvalleytribune.com

Via eastvalleytribune.com

Marijuana businesses are growing in Arizona.

The medical marijuana industry has seen growth each year since voters approved the legalization of medical marijuana six years ago.

Ninety medical marijuana dispensaries were open in Arizona in 2015, compared to three years ago when only three dispensaries were open, according to data from the Arizona Department of Health Services.

The number of cardholder applications, including for qualifying patients, designated caregivers and dispensary agents, also has steadily increased. Nearly 98,000 people applied for cards in 2015, a 40 percent increase from the previous year, a DHS annual report shows.

The booming industry has also led to the openings of marijuana-related businesses. There’s little data on such ancillary groups but cardholders like Megan Stone have created innovative companies.

Megan Stone started The High Road Design Studio, a Tempe interior design company, with a particular client in mind: marijuana dispensaries.

Stone’s own experiences as a cannabis patient inspired her. She got her medical marijuana card after moving to California from the Midwest at 23.

Stone’s first visit to a dispensary was anti-climactic.

“Everything about the experience was so dodgy and so dirty and so illegal feeling,” she said. “Nothing about it felt legal or happy or safe.”

Stone had helped pay for design school by working as a “budtender,” or product salesperson, at an Orange County dispensary. The experience ignited a passion for the plant.

“As soon as I started working in a shop it really very quickly became very important to me,” she said. “It was really nice to just finally meet a whole world of people that used cannabis the way I did.”

Stone combined her insider’s knowledge of the cannabis industry with her design chops, starting the High Road in California in 2013.

She relocated to Arizona six months later, drawn to the business opportunities in a regulated industry. She recently redesigned a Scottsdale dispensary.

“A lot of the stuff that was opening up here was really forward thinking and a really good model,” Stone said.

She said her design style is “elegantly masculine,” appealing to a male audience but “with a woman’s touch to it.”

Stone said the goal is to normalize purchasing medical-marijuana products, creating a retail experience that appeals to a variety of customers.

“This industry changes on a weekly basis, honestly, and people’s perceptions of it are changing all the time,” she said. “I’m glad I chose to specialize in this and focus on this niche because there’s a lot of opportunity still coming.”