Fast Five Q&A: Lauren Carpenter, Co-founder and CEO of Embarc

fast five lauren carpenter

Dispensaries are often the first touchpoint for people exploring cannabis. Selling regulated products is just the beginning; retailers also provide education, community engagement, and entertainment to consumers new and old.

Lauren Carpenter is taking this notion to the next level as the CEO and co-founder of California cannabis retailer Embarc. She strives to ensure her business sets the bar high. By working with high-profile events such as Outside Lands and the California State Fair, Embarc is able to shine a light on cannabis in a thoughtful and impactful manner.

Carpenter answered GreenState’s Fast Five questions, sharing what sets Embarc apart, how the company is able to work with major music festivals, and previews what’s on deck for the rest of 2024 and beyond.

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GreenState: How did your journey in cannabis start?

Lauren Carpenter: Like so many, my journey with cannabis is (and will be) lifelong and full of evolution. Personally, my exploration started with curiosity and a belief that this plant has nearly limitless potential. 

Professionally, I’ve participated in California cannabis for about six years – riding the waves, learning from the opportunities and lessons gleaned through my journey and those of so many of my peers, and ultimately eternally grateful for all that this has taught me. I am constantly inspired to be part of a community that is so motivated by uniquely personal “why” stories – this level of passion is a badge of honor for those of us in the trenches every day. 

GS: What is your favorite way to consume?

LC: What I admire most about cannabis is how dynamic it is. My consumption evolves all the time.  I love the creativity and connection of sharing a joint with my husband at the end of a long day. Sometimes, it helps to facilitate ‘big picture thinking’ as we dream up what comes next, and sometimes, it helps me to turn off work mode and shift in how I show up for my partner. 

Edibles have also proved incredible for my anxiety and insomnia. Space Gems are my absolute favorite – that small but mighty team has a fan in me for life. 

GS: What sets Embarc apart from other cannabis retailers?

LC: A key focus of our team is redefining what value means. So many retailers have over-indexed into price slashing in a completely unsustainable way. Value extends far beyond price—it requires facilitating consistently exceptional experiences. For us, this is reflected in our store design, menu curation, customer interactions, and loyalty program, among others. 

I also believe that team is one of the biggest differentiators in retail. We have a lot of team members who have been in our stores since day one and there is so much value in their experience, expertise, and in the relationships they forge within our communities. 

Finally, I will say that we have an unwavering commitment to destigmatization. Our team puts in the work – sometimes for years – to push legalization forward in communities that have been slow to move on accepting local cannabis businesses. We form coalitions with folks from broad backgrounds and experiences and bring them together in support of safe access. This is one of the most rewarding aspects of what we do. It is an incredible feeling to see people’s perceptions shift in real-time through constant education and engagement. 

GS: You’ve partnered with several high-profile events and festivals to bring cannabis to the mainstream – how is that helping move the needle forward in our space?

LC: I am really proud of the way that we’ve been able to seamlessly integrate outreach, education, and often sales and consumption into traditional festivals and events. By showcasing cannabis at massive events like Outside Lands and BottleRock – plus four or so high-profile additions this year, we actualize an experience that destigmatizes cannabis at scale for many who have never had access to a dispensary. 

These events require months of regulatory work, partnership with teams across the industry, and extensive production to bring to life, and it is so rewarding when gates open and attendees who love cannabis, are curious about cannabis, and everything in between explore our activation. 

I’ve heard folks from countries around the world say that it’s the first time they’ve ever experienced anything like it, I’ve heard regulators say that the cannabis area is their favorite part of the entire festival because of the good vibes, and I’ve heard Californians say they discovered a new favorite brand through the experience. This is how we push normalization forward; it’s how we provide a platform to amplify brand partners, and ultimately, it’s how people return home with a new understanding of how cannabis can be experienced in their community.   

GS: What’s ahead this year for Embarc?

LC: Our primary focus is on sustained and sustainable growth while continuing to invest in solidifying our foundation. By May, we’ll have 15 stores across California, with about a dozen more on the horizon. We have an epic festival season lined up this year, bringing cannabis to more spaces and more places than ever before. We are thrilled to have a significant presence at this year’s State Fair, building upon the fantastic work of the past few years to expand recognition that cannabis is an incredible agricultural product alongside California’s other noteworthy cultivations. 

And in September, we’ll likely see another season of Devil’s Lettuce – shoutout to our visionary Courtney for creating AdWeek’s top cannabis campaign of the year with no budget and endless creativity. 

Lauren Carpenter is the co-founder of Embarc, a family of neighborhood cannabis shops serving diverse communities throughout the great state of California. Before embarking on her journey in cannabis, Lauren was in government, regulatory, public, and community affairs. She spent a decade helping dozens of Fortune 50 companies build effective coalitions in California and learned a tremendous amount about creating win-win-wins between business, policymakers, and the public. Prior to co-founding Embarc, Lauren was the Chief Strategy Officer for Sweet Flower and Director of Government Affairs for Western States at MedMen.

The answers given by Q&A subjects do not necessarily reflect the opinions of GreenState. The subject is solely responsible for the views stated in this piece.

rachelle gordon

Rachelle Gordon is a cannabis journalist, Emerald Cup judge, Budist critic, and editor of She began her weed writing journey in 2015 and has been featured in High Times, CannabisNow, Beard Bros, MG, Skunk, and many others. Rachelle currently splits her time between Minneapolis and Oakland; her favorite cannabis cultivars include Silver Haze and Tangie. Follow Rachelle on Instagram @rachellethewriter