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Embarc enlists Give Every Child a Chance Chief executive officer as ‘local owner’
The interior of Embarc’s Martinez store.

Embarc —  a cannabis retailer with seven locations currently in California — is among those seeking one of three permits for the privilege of selling marijuana from a storefront in Manteca.

The firm’s typical customer profile might not fit one’s preconceived notions. It’s a 44-year-old female.

Nor does Embarc’s physical presence in communities they are in look like something the creators of the Netflix series “Breaking Bad’ would design.

Embarc’s Fresno location is in a modern-looking building that is well-landscaped on a high-profile corner — Blackstone and Gettysburg avenues — in that city.

While attractive, its architectural touches won’t confuse people into thinking it is a health spa as does the firm’s South Lake Tahoe location that transformed a former bait and smoke shop into a cannabis dispensary.

Once inside, Embarc stores have a somewhat  feel of a high-end cosmetics section of a major retailer but built much more open with a soothing atmosphere leaning heavily on light woods accented with soft colors.

That mean Embarc stores do not reek of the old Haight Ashbury head shop vibe.

“We want to do it right,” noted cofounder Dustin Moore on Thursday.

It is why if Embarc prevails an extensive scrutiny of its application by a third party and checks all the boxes and then some that the city requires, it will eschew industrial areas where Manteca is allowing cannabis dispensary.

Instead, they will see out a well-trafficked retail location.

“We’re a retail business,” Moore said.

In short, that means they want customers over 21 to be able to seamlessly shop for cannabis products without driving out of their way to areas that have low traffic and where a cannabis store would likely be the only operation open in the evenings or in weekends.

Law enforcement, as Moore points out, tends not to like cannabis dispensaries located in industrial parks for that reason.


Embarc’s co-founder

inspired by his father’s

experience with cannabis

Moore, who shared his company’s values and answered question at the Manteca Rotary Club meeting at Ernie’s Rendezvous, in many ways is like a number of his competitors in that aspect.

But he brings a unique perspective to the business.

What got him involved with marijuana was his father.

Or more precisely his father’s altered conditions taking medications for seizures after suffering multiple brain injuries.

A doctor suggested his father try cannabis in a bid to avoid the side effects of the medication.

It worked. His father was back to his former self and the seizures stopped.

That was after Proposition 215 passed in 1996 legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes but with absolutely nothing put in place in terms of rules. That had the unintended consequence of allowing unregulated and then illegal pot sales for recreational purposes to use medicinal marijuana as a cover

“All Proposition 215 did was say it wasn’t legal to use marijuana for medical purposes,” Moore said.

It created problems for district attorneys trying to prosecute cases of illegal marijuana sales and illegal grows.

Moore was part of the 2016 effort that cleaned up the mess, legalized recreational marijuana use for those 21 and over, and empowered located elected leaders to decide whether storefront marijuana sales would be allowed in a community.

The 57 percent support the proposition drew still stands as the highest level of support a recreational cannabis ballot measure has ever earned in the United States.

Moore, while working for then Speaker of the Assembly John Perez in 2011, developed legislation for medical cannabis regulations that were the building blocks of the regulatory framework in place today.

 In 2014, Moore began working to develop and ultimately ran Proposition 64, the successful ballot measure that legalized adult-use cannabis in California.
 As founding partner at Axiom Advisors, Moore spearheaded the firm’s cannabis practice, representing more than 300 licensees in California as well as the nation’s largest brands across the supply chain.

 In this capacity, Moore has served as a critical business advisor on the development and ongoing business strategy for the largest companies in cannabis today, ultimately driving his decision to launch Embarc.


Moore believes it is

best for marijuana

users to be 26 & older


Moore drew a pointed question Thursday from a retired high school administrator who noted that he could cite numerous cases where marijuana use “really messed kids up”.

Moore didn’t disagree.

“No one under 26” should use marijuana, Moore said, alluding to studies that have indicated there could be issues from sustained marijuana use to the brain before it finishes developing and maturing in the mid-20s.

Moore noted the on-site security and muscular verification that in comparison is lightyears more stringent than a 7-Eleven cashier asking for ID buying alcohol or cigarettes, effectively prevents those under 21 from entering the actual store area. That’s because verification takes place in a secured lobby in the presence of a security guard.

That said, Moore stressed Embrac is a business that is following legally established rules and that the firm is committed to following the law.   

And that is why Moore said he believes even with taxes and regulations that clearly make legal cannabis more expensive than black market pot, the regulated version is a viable business model that will work once things settle down.

“Remember, we are only five years into it (legal recreational marijuana sales)”, Moore said.

The system in place provides a reputable and safe product that costs more but meets stringent state testing and tracking laws.

As such, there is an extremely high level of confidence that what is purchased at a legal storefront operation doesn’t come from plants where a grower used Raid and other dangerous pesticides to kill pests which in  turn is absorbed by the plant.

Moore noted testing of legal marijuana goes down in  to the “billionths” of minuscule measurement as opposed to the millionths for items such as spot testing the safety of organic strawberries.

 As proof that Embarc believes the current model that generated $1 billion for the state last year is viable, the firm is opening its eighth store on Saturday in Chico.

They also have plans for stores in  the works for Ventura,  Meyers, Tracy, and Contra Costa.

Existing stores are in Alameda, Fairfield, Fresno, Martinez, Sacramento, Redwood City, and South Lake Tahoe.

Embarc — a 100 percent retail cannabis operation  that sells products produced by certified and regulated growers — has the large funding upfront needed to met Manteca’s stringent and extensive safety, security and tracking standards.

It is also necessary because legal cannabis in California — because it is not federally allowed — deprives such businesses in the state from taking advantage of various IRS tax deductions that substantially reduce the cost of doing business.

The firm also uses one of 300 banks that will do business with legal marijuana concerns. As a result, customers will be able to use ATM cards instead of cash.


Embarc has already

selected a ‘local owner’

that will share in equity

 Besides paying municipal taxes/fees, Embarc’s business model sets aside one percent of its gross each year to invest in non-profit endeavors in the communities where they are located.

The advisory board is already in the process of being formed and will be ready to go should Embarc secure one of the three permits.

The advisory board will help decide how funds generated by the 1 percent set aside of gross will be spent on Manteca endeavors

It is led by a “local owner”.

The position — which comes with an equity share that varies from store-to-store — is effectively Embarc’s “boots on the ground” to make sure things are done right to community standards.

And making sure it is done right is one of the reasons why Christina Keefhaver — the CEO of Give Every Child a Chance — signed on as the local owner.

Other advisory board members are Jeff Liotard, Mt. Mike’s Pizza co-owner; Steve Jessup, Manteca Chamber of Commerce president; Nick Obligacion, retired Manteca police chief, and Melissa Bugarin-Campos, Manteca businessperson.

Moore lauded the process Manteca is using to select the eventual permit holders.

It is one of three standard models.

One, is a legacy approach where cities have restricted applicants to “legacy businesses” — those that ran afoul with the law when it was illegal to sell marijuana for recreational use.

Another is by a lottery system.

The third is establishing stringent requirements and expectations upfront that basically require a significant amount of money to have in hand upfront including a $10,000 fee for vetting all aspects of the application by a third party.

Moore noted Manteca is not employing a lottery system that allows chance to determine who will have “the privilege” of operating a retail cannabis concern in the city.

It also avoids having legacy applicants that would likely lack the capital to comply with expensive security measures as well as meet the specifications that the storefront — inside and out — will meet quality expectations off the city.

City officials expected to be in a position in award the three permits later this year.


 To contact Dennis Wyatt, email