Madison-based dispensary Herbal Aspect, Monona police officers hold challenging cannabis conversations to build relationships

    Alan Robinson speaks with Monona Police Sergeant Adam Nachreiner. (Photo by Omar Waheed)

    Madison-based dispensary Herbal Aspect hosted members of the Monona Police Department at its Winnebago Street location on Madison’s East Side on Feb. 27 in an attempt to battle misconceptions of cannabis, to discuss possible harassment of customers and to continue its mission to educate the public on the realities of cannabis in Wisconsin.

    The effort comes after Herbal Aspect owner Alan Robinson saw the potential for an expansion of the local dispensary franchise to Monona but realized his own concerns and fears for both him and its customers. Herbal Aspect, a dispensary with three locations in Madison, provides delta 8 THC.

    Four members of the Monona Police Department, including Sergeant Adam Nachreiner and officers Landon Flora, Canter Losby, and Andrew Hoffman, met with Robinson to hear more about his business and hopes for Herbal Aspect while trying to dispel concerns about its policing and to build relationships.

    “You got to build those relationships. If you’re not going to build those relationships, when something does go wrong, when there is a robbery, when there’s an impaired driver… and someone isn’t being responsible with their cannabis consumption, there has to be an open flow of communication,” Robinson said.

    Herbal Aspects currently has three locations throughout Madison, and a couple months ago, Robinson was looking at an expansion for a fourth location. He plans to have six locations across greater Madison but stopped in his tracks after realizing his own discomfort driving down Monona Drive.

    Robinson talked with State Sen. Melissa Agard, a supporter and friend of his, about the issue. Agard then arranged for Robinson to meet with Monona Police Chief Brian Chaney, where the two worked out a visit for a few of its officers to come down to one of Herbal Aspect’s locations to learn more about his operation and build relationships.

    Robinson spent time explaining the intricacies of how his business operates and how it teeters on the limited legalities for cannabinoids in Wisconsin.

    Officers, who did their best to understand the scientific differences in cannabinoids, understood the issue in some respects. However, officers are admittedly still unable to tell the difference between illegal cannabis and legal cannabis.

    In the case where an officer would confiscate a product from Herbal Aspect in either a shipment or from customers, Monona Police do not have the equipment to test the difference and instead opt to confiscate and destroy it for small quantities. Monona Police dogs have been trained to recognize the difference between CBD and THC cannabis products, according to Officer Flora.

    Robinson and the officers acknowledge there is a struggle to differentiate between the two given that they look and smell the same. Monona Police present at the shop assured that they have rarely stopped anyone unless there is a clear and present instance of reckless driving.

    “I have never done a weed OWI [Operating While Intoxicated] in eight years of my career. All the cops are the same,” Officer Flora said. “If you’re not physically impaired, we’re not petty — you’re not going to find a nicer police department than Monona as long as you don’t run or fight.”

    But fear from drivers, including Robinson himself, can cause them to get nervous behind the wheel and start recklessly driving, leading to getting pulled over.   

    “I have been Black for a long time and the technical violation of the law is more than enough to get me sent up the river,” Robinson said.

    His own fear over the potential of getting pulled over led Robinson to take an Uber to the initial meeting with the Monona Police Chief.

    Robinson still wants to build a relationship with the Monona Police Department despite the fears for he and his customers. He says that his work with Herbal Aspect is centered on health and community well-being.

    “I’m irritated at the safety on the street because the demographics of people that are dying from fentanyl poisonings, those are the demographics of, for example, my uncle’s people that were economically encouraged in the ’80s and ’90s to sell crack,” Robinson said. “I might not agree with all this, but I’ve got to do this because I understand that this is important for my community.”

    In his efforts to promote health and community well-being, Herbal Aspects provides clean, free kits for users of harder drugs. Robinson is not supportive of the use of drugs that use the provided kit, but part of his own philosophy with Herbal Aspect is centered on responsible use and safety.

    Robinson strongly advertises Herbal Aspect as a place for adults, 21 years and up, to responsibly partake in cannabis usage. His shop refuses to carry anything that looks like it could be marketed to children. They also use a cannabis testing lab in Irvine to ensure all batches of their cannabis products don’t have harmful contaminants, such as pesticides, heavy metals, mold, and bacteria.

    He hopes to not have the same happen and to build trust within Monona. The meeting with Monona Police was the first step in his plans. Robinson wants to avoid harassment of his business and customers for the potential Monona location.

    Robinson is planning a ride along with Officer Flora soon.