Fruitridge Health & Wellness Collective
Hard to spot, but well worth a couple of U-turns, is south Sacramento’s Fruitridge Health & Wellness Collective, a small dispensary where even the security guard is friendly. Inside, Salvador Dali prints hang on a green wall and busy “bud tenders” scurry behind the counter helping patients. Caleb Counts, director of operations at FHWC, set up shop in February 2009, and says experiences with cancer in his family first influenced the decision to explore alternative medicine. But while Counts and the staff at FHWC enjoy providing patients with Oaksterdam clones and high-quality OG Kush, they also take special interest in the overall well-being of their patients and surrounding neighborhood. For instance, there’s a need for nutritional education in the south Sacramento area, which is why FHWC is planning to start a community garden. Plus, FHWC offers a compassion program: Open to qualified patients, the dispensary offers farmers’ market fruits and vegetables at no cost, as well as a weekly credit for medicine. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.
Do you personally have a favorite strain?
I do. Mine would be the 707 Headband. It helps me out; it gets me through the day when I’m struggling. I have [ADHD], and 707 Headband can help get me to work like nothing else. I also have a prescription for Adderall, and the side effects keep me awake at night and, sometimes, edgy and agitated during the day. So I try to take it as infrequently as possible, and when I’m able to substitute cannabis for that, it makes for a better week all the way around.
Give me the Fruitridge Health & Wellness Collective sales pitch.
It’s the overall experience. It’s like going into your neighborhood fill-in-the-blank store. Most of the people here know all of the patients’ names. You feel very welcome. And we’re dedicated to provide the best experience overall, and that includes the best medicine that fits our patients’ needs. We’re not looking for the best deal; we’re just looking to serve our patients the best. It’s proven to be effective.
What kind of jobs can cannabis offer in this struggling economy?
I think the medical-cannabis community is one of the few businesses hiring in Sacramento right now [that’s] providing fair-wage paying jobs. At Fruitridge Health & Wellness, we’ve been very fortunate, and we’ve grown significantly. In that growth, we’ve brought on a number of patients. We have 11 full-time employees getting medical and dental benefits; we’re working on putting together a 401(k) program to be able to contribute to their retirement. We have a total of 17 employees … and I see nothing but continued growth in our future.
Tell me about FHWC’s compassion program.
For those less fortunate, perhaps for those on disability or government assistance—we currently have close to 100 patients in the program—we give them a weekly credit for medicine and fruit and vegetables. We recognized a need for nutrition and nutrition education in the south Sacramento area, which is the neighborhood we serve. We also realized there’s a local farmers’ market … [and] we purchase fruits and vegetables on a weekly basis and give them away to our patients. Twice a month, we teach a nutritional-education program to help [patients] incorporate some of these fruits and vegetables into their routine and daily diet.
How else does FHWC help the community?
We were looking into starting a community garden, finding a vacant lot in the neighborhood. That became pretty burdensome. We started talking with the city, and we would have to get a special-use permit and bring water to the property, so while we’re working on that—because that is a goal of ours for the future—we have a contract with the folks at the local farmers’ market. We buy in bulk and distribute. It’s worked out great, and [patients] love it.
What are your thoughts on Proposition 19?
Fruitridge’s stance on Prop. 19 is [that] we remain neutral. We’re focused on providing the best medical-marijuana experience, and Prop. 19 doesn’t make any changes to current medical-marijuana law. So we feel as long as we continue to focus on the path of providing the best experience, whether Prop, 19 passes or fails, as long as we’ve maintained our vision and don’t stray from that, we’ll still be providing the best experience possible despite the outcome.
Share some patient success stories.
One individual in particular travels all the way from Modesto to come here because of our quality of service. He broke his back falling off a ladder five years ago and has been on a laundry list of hard-core narcotic pain medications. When he discovered medical cannabis a year-and-a-half ago, he started to wean himself off, and, as of eight months ago, he’s told us he is completely free of all narcotics and completely relies on medical cannabis, specifically indicas. His favorite is Grand Daddy Purple to relieve him of his pain and get through the day. Indicas have been instrumental in relieving a number of our patients entirely from their dependence on pain medication.
How does it feel providing medicine to patients?
We have patients coming from over 570 different ZIP codes. It feels very good. I have a lot of personal experience with cancer in my family, and I wish that some of my relatives could have benefited from the use of medical cannabis. And that was part of the reason why I got involved in this. To be able to see people work through their pain, their different ailments and me being a part of that, Fruitridge being a part of that, everyone loves it. It’s a great sense of satisfaction.