The do-it-yourself craze has reached a new high.
WeGrow, a just-opened marijuana superstore in Phoenix, boasts 21,000 square feet of cannabis gardening tools and a "plant whisperer" who makes house calls. The franchise dubs itself the "Walmart of Weed," and hopes its big-box mentality will lure the country's budding legions of medical-marijuana users.
"We are going to be a lot more competitive because we are the first chain in retail hydroponics," weGrow founder Dhar Mann told DailyFinance. "Everything else that exists are primarily mom-and-pop shops."
More than a million Americans across 16 states and Washington, D.C., are permitted to use pot to relieve the symptoms of many diseases, according to the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws. Annual business runs into the billions of dollars.
Medical-marijuana users typically pay between $200 and $400 an ounce, but those who tend their own plants can reduce the cost to as low as $50 an ounce, said Kris Hermes, spokesman for Americans for Safe Access. "Cutting costs is always good for patients," he said.
Twice the size of its other outlets in Oakland and Sacramento, Calif., the Phoenix weGrow carries enough irrigation trays, lamps and other paraphernalia to service a larger consumer base. But a lawsuit halting pot-dispensing applications in Arizona threatened to dampen the grand opening. The store still welcomed 10,000 visitors in its first three days, a rep estimated. No word on how many requested the plant whisperer, who reaps $1,200 for eight weeks of two-hour sessions. The ganja emporium also offers "Bloom Room" packages from $69 for a green-thumb briefing to $999 for a grow-room blueprint, onsite installation and expert advice.
The court wrangling over dispensaries began after Arizona voters approved a medical marijuana law. The store intended to focus on large-scale grower/distributors, but for now is catering to those among the state's citizens who are authorized to toke. Individuals can cultivate up to 12 plants if they live more than 25 miles from an official dispensary, according to the law. A doctor stationed at weGrow can grant approval for marijuana ID cards after an examination and a check of medical records, all for $150.
"We are needed now more than ever by patients and caregivers in Arizona," Mann said.
Opponents such as Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R), who filed the lawsuit, point to an earlier state ban on all marijuana use. California might be on its neighbor's mind as well. After that state legalized medical marijuana, more than 200 stores popped up in Los Angeles County, attracting many customers who were not there for therapeutic purposes.
But weGrow believes the grass is greener in expansion. A Washington, D.C., outlet is in the works, Mann said, and more stores are planned.