Five Leaf Clover brings cannabidiol alternative medicine to rural South Dakota

·7 min read

Sep. 21—COLOME — According to legend, a four-leaf clover is lucky.

But Dustin Swatzell, a native of Washington now living in Herrick, prefers the five-leaf variety.

Swatzell opened his alternative medicine store, Five Leaf Clover, in Colome in July, offering a variety of cannabidiol products, including CBD and Delta 8 products, that are used to treat a variety of ailments, including pain and anxiety. The products sold are made from ingredients found in the common cannabis, or marijuana, plant and provide effects that allegedly give relief to those ailments without the intoxicating side effects commonly associated with marijuana.

It's a business he came into after witnessing the medicinal and recreational marijuana movements take hold in his home state of Washington. He saw the positive effects that the plant can have on people dealing with ailments, and thought it might make a good business in rural South Dakota after he relocated here.

"I mainly came into this industry because I'm a believer in it," Swatzell told the Mitchell Republic in a recent interview.

Swatzell, 36, operated another business for several years, working between Midland, Texas and the oil fields near Williston, North Dakota, and often found himself passing through South Dakota as he traveled. He enjoyed the rural atmosphere and quiet of the state, and when he decided it was time for a career change, he looked at combining what he had learned from the Washington marijuana industry and the placid nature of rural South Dakota.

"I found that South Dakota was a place to come between destinations. I would just relax and ride my motorcycle. I didn't know anybody here, it was just my stop. So I sold out of that business and I'm just going to stay in South Dakota until I find something else," Swatzell said.

When South Dakota voters approved both medicinal marijuana and recreational marijuana during the 2020 election, Swatzell saw an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a new industry. Recreational marjuana — passed by voters as Amendment A — is currently undergoing a legal challenge that now is before the South Dakota Supreme Court, delaying its implementation.

But there have been no legal challenges to the medical marijuana law, though debate is still taking place around the state on the best way to implement the law.

He had seen the industry do well in Washington, and knew that marijuana products were something from which South Dakotans could benefit, as well.

"I see a lot of Washington businesses do really well. I was able to see it first hand. I have friends in the business back home and got a first-hand peek at the inside before I wanted to jump on board," Swatzell said.

With the passage of medicinal marijuana in South Dakota, Swatzell said he would like to eventually open a rural medical marijuana dispensary, but with some public attitudes still opposed to the marijuana industry, he thought starting with a small alternative CBD store would be a good way to get rolling.

He said he has been a believer in the benefits of CBD products for some time. His girlfriend's 72-year-old mother suffers from pain from working on the farm all her life. He knew there was a marketable product when she said it offered her relief that she had had a hard time otherwise finding in other products.

"She takes CBD oil, and she swears by it," Swatzell said. "So (my girlfriend) said let's start off with a CBD store."

The work was met with some challenges. Products like CBD can still carry a stigma with them, and some area residents were not necessarily supporters of Swatzell's endeavor. He said he has received some criticism, but in the end, he has seen customers and several other members of the public support him, especially after they learn more about the products.

"There are a lot of people that are against it. My logo offends them. But it is what it is. I knew there would be those people, but I'm trying to stay strong for my business," Swatzell said.

He initially considered setting up shop in Winner, but changed his mind after he realized that some customers may not wish to advertise their patronage due to the visibility the store would have in Winner, a town of about 2,800. By moving it to Colome, a town of about 437, people could still stop by without thousands of eyes staring at them.

"Do I really want to do it right on Main Street in the middle of Winner where everyone can see as they drive by?" Swatzell said. "(Customers) don't necessarily want everyone in Winner knowing that. They might shame them. They might lose business. They might go to church and be told they're using the devil's lettuce."

Colome seemed like a good alternative, both as an out-of-the-way spot and as a small town that could use a new business. After a search for a storefront and gaining the approval of the local town board, he opened Five Leaf Clover with a grand opening in July of this year.

It has taken some convincing of the public, however. He said the town board debated the issue closely, and a public meeting on the store held recently drew as many as 50 people, most of whom showed their support for the new enterprise.

"There was so much support. That was amazing," Swatzell said.

The store itself carries a variety of cannabidiol products, including those made with CBD, CBG and Delta 8, legal products in South Dakota that are offered as treatment for a variety of ailments. His products come in edible forms such as gummy bears, tinctures and oils for oral consumption and lotions that can be applied directly to the skin.

The products are natural and offer a safe alternative to opiates like oxycontin, he said.

"A lot of people out here are coming in every day. They have arthritis. They have inflammation. They have back pain. They have replaced knees or hips. These are the things that people really come in here for, and they come in looking for some kind of relief," Swatzell said.

He even carries products specifically made for pets that help them overcome physical problems.

"Those are selling like crazy. Maybe your dog has a skin problem or has inflammation or joint pains. Or they're just getting worn out and can't quite jump up on the couch anymore. People relate to that. They love their animals and want to find some kind of relief for them," Swatzell. "We send them off with a sample and then come back and buy the big bag. They give (their pet) a treat and the first day they're running down the stairs."

The store is purposely designed and set up to subvert a skeptic's impression of what a CBD store may look like. The interior carries the appearance of a salon — clean and simple with nice lighting and product displays. His store is not a head shop, stores famous for carrying marijuana smoking paraphernalia and often decorated with black-light posters and other marijuana imagery, and he didn't want it associated with such.

"I don't have a problem with Rastafarian shops and smoke shops, but I wanted to keep it classy," Swatzell said.

He still has an eye on opening a full-blown medicinal marijuana dispensary, but there is no current timeline on his plans on that endeavor, though he said Five Leaf Clover in Colome will remain strictly a CBD store. A new, separate business venture would be started to handle that part of his plans, he said.

For now, he's content to share his products with customers 21 and over who have accepted their benefits, as well as share information and conversation with those who may be curious and stop in to see what the fuss is about. He believes those who do visit Five Leaf Clover may find something that will help them.

"We all have something that might bother us, be it physical or mental, whether it's anxiety or stress. Or just wanted to come in and have a conversation with a friend," Swatzell said. "My encouragement to them would be to consider an alternative medicine instead of Tylenol or ibuprofen."

Five Leaf Clover is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. More information can be found at the store Facebook page.

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