Green thumbs welcome

Sacramento’s newly christened ‘Wal-Mart of weed’ is more like a ‘hydroponics Home Depot’

Employee Nate Blanton and a sample of WeGrow’s cannabis-cultivation offerings.

Employee Nate Blanton and a sample of WeGrow’s cannabis-cultivation offerings.


Sacramento’s WeGrow and its Oakland counterpart, iGrow, have successfully billed themselves in media outlets such as High Times and this city’s daily paper as the “Wal-Mart of weed.” But that’s not quite accurate, since the budding hydroponic franchise, which promises additional locations “sprouting” across the nation, doesn’t actually sell the sticky icky.

Rather, WeGrow traffics (legally, of course) in hydroponic equipment, nutrients and training for medical-cannabis cultivators. More like the “hydroponics Home Depot,” if you will.

Wondering why the “marijuana superstore,” as it’s also dubbed itself, would want to be known as the Wal-Mart of anything, I decided to check out Saturday’s expo-style grand opening of the business’ first franchise location at 1537 Fulton Avenue, within lobbying distance of the state Capitol.

The superstore itself had an impressive layout, designed around a partitioned showcase of products, sort of like a Sears, but for pot cultivation. Each display featured a little medicinal factoid tacked to the inside of the wall, too, like a helpful cooking tip to bake only with buds to prevent the grassy flavor that can come from baking with trim.

There were more cooking tips from the enthusiastic crew of Chronically Delicious, a specialty food store where cannabis is the not-so-secret ingredient. While chef Kosmic Charlie talked up the pot-infusion process used in their flavored iced teas, owner Edward Banks spoke of his connection to iGrow founder Dhar Mann, whom he attended high school with in Oakland, and plugged May’s upcoming Global Marijuana March at the Capitol.

“I’ve been an advocate in Sacramento for many years,” Banks said. When someone asked how long he’d been making cannabis-infused food products, he chuckled. “Above ground for seven years.”

The mostly pot-savvy crowd navigated its way around the displays, chatting with WeGrow employees like Matt Phillips, who made a common observation about the day’s tenor. “Oh man, it’s been crazy,” he said.

That was mostly true, though there were some prospective customers shy about talking to the press. One of them was a Sacramento woman named Nancy, who was thinking about starting her own garden.

“It’s very interesting,” she said before continuing her perusal of the hydroponic nutrient jugs shelved near the back of the 10,000-square-foot facility.

Nancy’s reluctance to part with her last name was understandable. The conflict between state and federal cannabis laws is notoriously bonkers. That’s where someone like Nate Bradley comes in. The executive director of a new educational organization, Lawmen Protecting Patients, is an ex-Wheatland police officer who traded in debilitating (but legal) prescription meds for medicinal herb to deal with his post-traumatic stress disorder (read “I pot the sheriff” by Nick Miller, SN&R The 420, January 20, for an interview with Bradley).

“What I try to explain to people is that government is broke,” he said, adding that the legal system has failed to keep pace with rapidly changing public opinions of marijuana.

WeGrow’s appeal as a one-stop marijuana cultivation store could best be summed up by Billy, who was checking things out with her son. A medical-marijuana user and the grower of her own garden, Billy, who didn’t give her last name, typically buys her gardening materials from multiple home-improvement stores. She was there Saturday to compare prices and gauge the convenience.

“It looks pretty good. It’s been a while since I’ve looked at fertilizer,” she said. “But it’s pretty reasonable for what it is.”