Oakland, Calif., Pot Superstore Opens Doors

A pot warehouse opens in Oakland, Calif., featuring 15,000 square feet of one-stop shopping space for those interested in growing medical marijuana. What some are calling the "Wal-Mart of Weed" opens just as a grassroots effort to legalize recreational marijuana in California is gaining ground.

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Here in California, the city of Oakland has just gotten another big-box store. But its unlike any youve seen before. This one is a superstore specializing in medical marijuana. It has everything a customer could want, from a physician to make the pot legal to all the gear a person needs to grow their own.

NPRs Richard Gonzales gives us a tour.

RICHARD GONZALES: In California, all you need is a doctors letter to buy a small amount of medical marijuana. But if you want to grow your own, then you might become a customer of iGrow.

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GONZALES: Its a 15,000-square-foot warehouse located near the Oakland Airport, and its designed as a one-stop shop for everything youll need for indoor hydroponic cultivation of marijuana, medical or otherwise - everything but the plant itself.

Mr. JUSTIN JORGENSEN (General Manager, iGROW): iGROW is - I like to call it the medicinal marijuana superstore.

GONZALES: Justin Jorgensen is general manager of iGROW.

Mr. JORGENSEN: Youll find everything from soil to any of the various grow mediums, so theres coca leaf, theres hydroton, theres a lot of different mediums. You can find trays to hold water or to hold your actual different plants.

GONZALES: Not to mention, all the systems youll need to grow weed indoors. Thats where iGROWs onsite experts can help. Theyre called the Grow Squad, a name inspired by another big-box retailer, says Jorgensen.

Mr. JORGENSEN: The Geek Squad at Best Buy - we have the Grow Squad. People that are professionals consult with you and answer any questions you have pertaining to growing.

GONZALES: IGrow isnt the first hydroponic store in Oakland, but its probably the largest in California. And its grand opening yesterday came as a campaign to legalize marijuana for recreational use took another step forward. Proponents announced that they have collected 700,000 signatures, more than enough to get on the November ballot. Richard Lee(ph) is a medical marijuana dispensary owner in Oakland who is bankrolling the effort.

Mr. RICHARD LEE (Medical Marijuana Dispensary Owner, Oakland): This is - historic first step toward ending cannabis prohibition. Ive always believed that cannabis should be taxed and regulated and that our current laws arent working.

GONZALES: The petitions still have to be certified, but if the measure gets on the ballot and passes, anyone over the age of 21 could possess an ounce of marijuana and grow their own inside a 25-square-foot area. Cities and counties could also regulate and tax marijuana. Back at the iGrow warehouse, local elected leaders made it clear they already have an eye on potential revenues from marijuana in any form. Rebecca Kaplan is a member of the Oakland City Council.

Ms. REBECCA KAPLAN (Oakland City Council): And so anytime we have a local business opening, growing, thriving, we want to be proud of that. We want to celebrate that. We want to uplift that. And we know that our city can grow this way. And we will have revenue that will fund the parks and the libraries and the services that people need.

GONZALES: There are still many California cities grappling with how to regulate their medical marijuana dispensaries, but the opening of the iGrow superstore suggests that cannabis is taking another step out of the shadows, at a time when polls indicate that California voters may be ready to legalize weed for any adult, regardless of how they plan to use it.

Richard Gonzales, NPR News, Oakland.

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