Some dispensaries slap a label on medical cannabis, toss it on a shelf, and call it a day. But for Reid Thoma, executive director of Grass, cannabis is medicine, period. According to Thoma, patients should be armed with as much information as possible in order to make the best medical decision. That’s why Grass sends every strain it has to a lab to be tested for tetrahydrocannabinol content, among other things. For Thoma and the rest of his staff, giving patients the exact percentage of THC in the marijuana they purchase assures quality medicine. With more than a decade of dispensary knowledge behind him, Thoma recently expanded by combining with downtown’s Sacramento Holistic Healing Center under the Grass moniker. But even a veteran dispensary owner like Thoma says the stress is every day, and the future is uncertain.
How did you find alternative medicine?
I’m actually from southern Humboldt [County]; I’m from Garberville. Marijuana in general is different there; it’s kind of a counter-culture up there. … I have a lot of back pain, which causes insomnia, and I use [medical marijuana] to take care of that. But I personally don’t use marijuana that much. My grandmother had cancer, and while she was going through [chemotherapy] she was using marijuana to take care of eating, and then the nausea of chemo.
Will Proposition 19 impact medical cannabis?
I think Prop. 19 will actually be good for the industry and for everyone. And the reason I think that is because there’s a lot of people, for whatever reason, that don’t want to get their card or can’t get their card. And just for that reason, allowing prescriptions for those people would be a good thing. The people from 18 to 21 [years old], I mean, that’s going to be tough, but there’s still going to be medical marijuana. Just because marijuana will be legalized and taxed doesn’t mean that there won’t be medical marijuana.
What’s most difficult about running a dispensary?
There are inherent risks. I’ve been in the industry for over a decade, and I feel like there’s a good amount of stress involved … but that’s with any business. With the city acting the way they were, that’s stressful because there was the possibility of [being shut] down, then the lottery. We’re in a safer place [now]. … We got the third option, which is special permit, which is good and bad. The good part is that all the registered dispensaries have the possibility to stay open. The bad part is that the decision making is done by a case-by-case basis, which is good and bad, because the decision-making process can be pretty arbitrary. … It’s just kind of scary. All the good dispensaries are going to get in, but with this special permit, you just don’t know.
How is Grass involved in the community?
Sacramento Holistic Healing Center has become Grass. The Sacramento Holistic Healing Center has been donating to the California AIDS Walk. This is going to be our third year donating, being one of the principal sponsors. And because we’re under one brand now, we’re all donating. We also donate to the Sunburst [Projects] program, which is an organization that helps children directly affected by AIDS; children with HIV or AIDS; or children whose parents have HIV or AIDS. We donate time at Loaves & Fishes, serving food with other members of the Sacramento Alliance of Collectives. We’re a member of that organization, and through that organization, we’ve donated a lot of time to the community.
Tell me about your patients.
I spend most of my time downtown, and there’s a number of patients that come in and would have a hard time functioning or holding down a job and just functioning in normal society. It’s not just medical cannabis that helps them, but it’s medical cannabis in combination with prescription drugs. It’s not just medical cannabis that will be the miracle cure, but it’s the combination. A lot of times, I see people who are on 12 pills a day, and then they get their cannabis card and they start smoking. And as they get the feel of it, they’re able to go from 12 pills a day to, say, six pills a day. It’s going to be better for their stomach lining and their internal organs, because they’re not taking as many pills, period.
Where will Grass be a year to five years from now?
I see us five years from now pretty much doing the same thing that we’re doing now: just providing marijuana for the people who need it. Or, if the laws change, for the people who want it, and being a part of the community … to help people be productive members of society.