GOTG Profile: Kimberly Cargile, Director of A Therapeutic Alternative

By Laura Braden Quigley (photos by Chantel Elder)

Laura Braden Quigley
Laura Braden Quigley

Across the nation, 8.1 million women own their own business – with 59,200 living in Sacramento. And while those numbers are on the rise, challenges from access to capital and pay equity to diversity in leadership remain.

One industry working hard to buck that trend? Cannabis.

According to Marijuana Business Daily, 36 percent of all cannabis executives are women – beating the national average (22 percent) across all industries.

And no one exemplifies this trend locally better than Kimberly Cargile.

Kimberly serves as director for the nonprofit A Therapeutic Alternative (3015 H Street) (Facebook), one the grid’s best cannabis dispensaries.

She’s a true leader in the community and defies any single label. When she’s not advocating for and serving patients, Kimberly is also a mother, yoga instructor, entrepreneur and political/policy guru.

In college, Kimberly studied cellular and microbiology while working as a fitness trainer and yoga instructor. This combination led her to explore natural remedies and herbal medicines that eventually landed her first job in the industry: general manager at one of California’s first dispensaries, Capitol Wellness Collective, in 2006.

One of her first projects was to interview patients for a documentary. She met actors, moms, business owners…all utilizing cannabis for a variety of reasons. Kimberly was struck that while everyone said cannabis was benefiting their health and wellness, most were terrified (or too sick) to make their voices heard in the public forum. She realized she could fill a void and serve as their collective voice to policymakers, media and the general public.

Her role evolved from growing a nonprofit to starting a movement that helped people. Countless hearings, meetings, petitions and protests later, Kimberly spearheaded several pieces of legislation and local ordinances that now serve as a case study for other communities.

204674_016That advocacy and dedication extends to her colleagues, as well. Six new businesses are now being run by her employees – Kimberly simply helped them get started/compliant and then handed the reins over.

While the cannabis industry is intent on bucking trends, it’s still heavily male-dominated, and Kimberly credited a tribe of women to her success. In fact, she noted that most of her industry mentors were female trailblazers like Dr. Mollie Fry, Aundre Speciale and Jeanne Larsson. Women who took on big challenges – under great risk to their personal lives – to help patients gain access to cannabis.

And like many of us – Kimberly figured out how to use any challenge to her benefit. If a male grower underestimated Kimberly’s ability to identify quality cannabis, she’d simply use that to her advantage during price negotiations. If a policy panel needed a “token” woman, Kimberly would gladly volunteer to utilize that platform to advocate for her patients. Bit by bit, she started building a reputation and serious street cred for herself…and the industry at large.

NOT YOUR AVERAGE DISPENSARYA Therapeutic Alternative is housed in a beautiful craftsman on the edge of McKinley Park – minutes from several major hospitals and a cancer center. You’ve probably driven past it a million times without realizing that inside is a warm, inviting space for Prop 215 patients.

Filled with comfy and vintage furniture, the front desk staff greets everyone with a smile. The wait can take anywhere from 5-20 minutes, depending on how busy they are, but they have plenty of educational materials to peruse while you wait. Binders line the shelves stuffed with information on every menu item – complete with company profile, product effects and safety/testing verifications.

Lab testing isn’t currently required in California so not all dispensaries test for contaminants like mildew, mold, pesticides and solvents. A Therapeutic Alternative tests for all that and more, including each product’s cannabinoid make-up, which helps the patient get the desired effect from the various active chemical ingredients (e.g. sleep versus pain relief versus alertness). In fact, this dispensary sets the standard and serves as a model for several statewide regulations regarding security, dosages and testing.

Once you’re invited back to the counter, patients meet one-on-one with professional “budtenders” sporting white lab coats. From arthritis and depression to cancer and PTSD, they help patients choose the right products and explain how to properly dose to avoid going overboard (especially for edibles!).

Hate smoking…anything? They offer edibles, breath mints, tinctures, transdermal patches, drinks, topicals and a whole host of products that deliver medicine safely and quickly. They even have CBD-based treats for pets suffering from things like hip issues and separation anxiety.

Added bonus? They offer FREE holistic services for their patients ranging from guided meditation and Reiki to acupuncture and massage.

FUTURE OF CANNABIS IS BRIGHT: Legalization of social use in California – Proposition 64 on the November 2016 ballot – is (hopefully) just around the corner. Twenty-four states and Washington D.C. have already legalized the medical use of cannabis. Alaska, Colorado, Washington State, Oregon and Washington D.C. have also legalized its social use – with at least 10 states considering the same path this year.

The majority of Americans now support legalization, and America’s 2015 cannabis sales surpassed Dasani, Oreos and Girl Scout cookies. In fact, a recent report by New Frontier and ArcView Market Research estimated the industry would grow to $7.1 billion in 2016 – a 26 percent growth over the previous year, largely driven by adult social use.

Challenges remain – namely federal declassification and banking – but Kimberly remains hopeful that as more and more people understand the truth about cannabis, the outdated stigmas will disappear.

And Kimberly wants this dispensary to be a key part of the change. She’s taking full advantage of being based in the State Capitol, hosting tours for state legislators, the Police Chiefs Association, California League of Cities and Board of Equalization.

Big things are on the horizon – and we can’t wait to see what Kimberly does next!
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