In upcoming weeks, Earth's Healing dispensary will get to christen a 10,000 square-feet cultivation site with new medical marijuana strains.
The one they are most proud of was donated to the dispensary by a caregiver who wanted the special medical strain he'd been harvesting for years to have a legacy. The so-called Champasu is highly enhanced with CBD, or cannabidiol, one of the major medicinal compounds of ganja. CBD is used for treating chronic pain, diabetes, cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other neurological disorders.
"Having that CBD strain, which a lot of people don't have or aren't able to get, is going to be a staple," says William Elliott, Earth's Healing operations director. Champasu's CBD metabolites doubles the amount of THC metabolites, the compound that makes you high. Earth's Healing already has a few kinds with high levels of CBD but this one will be different, and they want you to stay tuned.
For decades, the industry solely focused on weed with tons of THC. In recent times, CBD strains have begun to make a name for themselves, especially among patients who seek the healing powers of pot without the stoner aftereffects, but they still like that.
There's a handful of other kinds of premium marijuana the dispensary will debut after they finally move into their new growing facility in approximately four to six weeks. Earth's Healing owner Vicky Puchi-Saavedra got her hands on the site early into 2014. For more than a year, the dispensary's been in the process to get city and state permits, and fluffing the place up to grow some pristine green for their customers.
The current site is only big enough for a limited amount of 14 different strains. More room now means at least 20 strains, and lots of plants for each.
The move is possible thanks to the Tucson City Council's unanimous decision last September to get rid of size restrictions on cultivation sites. Before then, these facilities had a size limit of 3,000 square feet, leaving many dispensaries, including Earth's Healing, with no other option but to purchase pot from Phoenix dispensaries—where growing spaces can be unlimitedly large—to keep up with the demand.
It took a while, but the city jumped onto the unlimited-space train after many dispensary owners showcased the potential grand economic benefits it could have in Tucson, not just among dispensaries but patients, as well. Also, renting or buying property results in property tax revenue for the city.
"The council members want us to stay in Tucson, they want us to generate business and they want us to generate employment," Puchi-Saavedra says. If the council didn't give in, she considered moving the cultivation site to Phoenix, which would have meant creating more jobs there rather than down here.
Also, the cost of weed traveling from Phoenix reflects in what the customers are paying. Now, Earth's Healing is looking forward to being self-sufficient and have that trickle down to lower prices and maybe even incentives for patients who can't afford their medicine. (Although, the dispensary is already one of the cheapest in town at about $13 to $20 per gram.)
Since the size restrictions were lifted, Earth's Healing has hired 10 new people and expect to bring many more on board. A new facility means a greater need for weed trimmers, at least one warehouse manager, people to keep track of the inventory and security personnel.
They already have a decent amount of local growers, who "keep getting better with time," Puchi-Saavedra says. And where do they find these growers? "At Circle K," Elliott jokes.
No, they are actually professionals, some with degrees in biochemistry.
"It is more like a manufacturing lab than a mom-and-pop growing facility," Puchi-Saavedra says. "Growers wear lab coats, we are going to go through a lot of sanitation, make sure everything is sterile. We are trying to grow medicine that is potent. We don't want any mold, any pesticides. That is our goal and that is why it takes so much time and effort to get there."
The dispensary currently sees an average of 200 patients a day, according to its marketing director, Florence Hijazi. As soon as the growing site is up and running, a bigger office is next in line and perhaps branching out in Arizona and other states.