"For the patients, by the patients."
That's the slogan of Desert Bloom Re-Leaf Center, an innovative and progressive medical marijuana dispensary located on Tucson's east side at 8060 E. 22nd St.
Desert Bloom opened its doors on July 3, 2013, and has lived by a customer-centric philosophy ever since.
In order to do accomplish that, Desert Bloom offers one of the largest inventories in the city with about 35 different strains. It also employs a staff that is made up primarily of individuals who are also medical marijuana patients.
"Our staff is educated on the product, and they're familiar with alternative health care methods," said Aari Ruben, Desert Bloom's director. "This gives them a better basis for in turn educating our patients and directing them toward the right medication."
The bulk of medical marijuana patients are cardholders due to chronic pain, but marijuana also treats conditions like epilepsy, cancer, and a long list of other issues. Post-traumatic stress disorder will be added to that list as of January 2015, and Ruben said that could alter the demographic of buyers.
"There are currently 60,000 medical marijuana patients in Arizona, but more than a half million people here with PTSD," said Ruben. "That could potentially be our biggest market. People say marijuana makes you forget, but if you've shot 50 people, maybe forgetting that isn't a bad thing. We are currently working on figuring out the best way to help this demographic."
For those cardholders who prefer not to smoke marijuana, Desert Bloom offers about 40 edible products including brownies, chocolate bars, juices, gummy bears and Tootsie Roll-style candy.
Desert Bloom's approach is one that focuses on whole-mind, whole-body, whole-spirit healing. Ruben, who spent much of his working life as a medical administrator prescribing painkillers, said when medical marijuana began passing legislation, he saw it as an improved method of healing patients.
"I just thought there was a better way to treat them, so when medical marijuana made its rounds, I decided to get very involved, follow all the rules, and made the decision to be a part of the industry," he said.
Ruben has continued his trend of involvement ever since as a member of the National Cannibus Industry Association and the Drug Policy Alliance. His hope is that marijuana, given its positive impact on people's lives, will eventually be legalized in Arizona.
"We do a lot of social promotion of hippie ideals," he said. "Eat good, clean air, green energy, take care of yourself. One thing that makes us different is we focus on the emotional side of health. If people come in here, we know them by name. They're happy, and they're fostering their own well-being."
Desert Bloom is in the process of developing its own grow, but until then, they will continue to see that all their product is lab-tested for quality and safety.
Ruben said while the black market continues to thrive, it is considerations such as safety, product knowledge, and comradery that keep people coming through his doorway.
"We are a resource for them," he said. "We want to do this the right way. We pay lots of taxes to help keep the roads paved and the schools' lights on. We want to be a productive part of the Tucson community and overcome the stigma that our movement has incurred."
The company offers incentives to several groups, including 10 percent discounts for veterans, students and seniors. First-time customers receive half off their initial purchase.
Desert Bloom Re-Leaf is open 365 days per year, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
For more information, visit dbloomtucson.com or call 886-1760.