Among the empty houses and weathered storefronts, a new business hopes to grow on Rhode Island Avenue NE.
WeGrow, a hydroponics store found nationwide, offers the equipment and training for anyone who wants to start an indoor garden.
A garden of pot.
“We’re the first hydro store to come out and say that our products are used to cultivate medical marijuana,” Chief Operations Officer Sunny Singh said.
The store sells trays, lighting, soil and other tools needed to grow plants in a controlled environment. The franchise’s “Bloom Room” offers consultation and training sessions for beginners, and can design and assemble “grow rooms” for clients, Singh said.
Friday’s opening coincided with the District’s selection of six companies to grow marijuana and supply medical cannabis to users. D.C. officials will announce the dispensary locations in June.
When the D.C. Council voted to establish as many as 10 cultivation centers as part of its medical marijuana program two years ago, some city residents raised concerns about where the cultivators would be located. But the strongest community opposition could surface as city officials review the applicants to run the distribution centers. Another hurdle could come from Capitol Hill because federal law prohibits the sale or possession of medical marijuana.
Singh said weGrow wants to be able to supply the cultivation companies’ owners with any equipment they may need to grow medical marijuana. The franchise also aims to educate users about safe, responsible growing and spread awareness of marijuana’s medicinal benefits, Singh said.
Under D.C. regulations, those with cancer, HIV-AIDS, multiple sclerosis and glaucoma may obtain the drug from legal dispensaries.
“Our customers are elderly people. It’s not young kids and people that are growing it illegally,” Singh said. “When you see that, it’s comforting to know that you’re helping somebody out.”
D.C. resident Jessica Jackson, who attended the store’s grand opening, said she became interested in medical marijuana because of her mother’s negative side effects to glaucoma medicines. Her husband, Pierre, said he is interested in opening a dispensary.
“This increases the chances not only to make [marijuana] legal in D.C., but also increases the chances of people that actually need the help to come in and have the supplies to grow it themselves,” Pierre Jackson said.
About whether people will welcome the opening of marijuana cultivation companies in some D.C. neighborhoods, Jessica Jackson said, “I think it’s a 50-50.”
“There are a lot of people who are conservative in D.C., and they might take a negative standpoint on it,” she said. “. . . . On the other hand, people who are a little bit more open-minded and a little more liberal, will look at it positively, like this is a new breakthrough in D.C.”
The store does not sell equipment for using the drugs, and its stock is not limited to marijuana-growing products.
Holly Torgerson, a clinical herbalist intern at LongeviTea Wellness in Laurel who came to the store’s opening, said the business can be beneficial for purposes other than cannabis.
“I love growing plants, I love using things from the earth as medicine,” Torgerson said. “As a gardener, I see a lot of great supplies — organic potting soil . . . like, ooh! Bat guano, I’m so excited.”
Like Jessica Jackson, Torgerson said growing up with an often-ill mother led her to an interest in herbal remedies.
“There’s millions of plants out there that traditions have used for medicine,” Torgerson said. “Anxiety, digestive disturbances, skin, detoxification. . . . It’s hard to find good ones for pain, though.”
The Northern California native said the need for effective natural pain remedies has placed an emphasis on cannabis over other drugs, so she acknowledged that some may use the system dishonestly despite its benefits.
“I’ve seen where it can go and how people can take advantage of using the system, claiming anything just to get [medical marijuana], but this is going to help so many people that a few just using it to get high . . . I don’t care,” Torgerson said.