MADELEINE BRAND, Host:
Here in California, the city of Oakland has just gotten another big-box store. But it's unlike any you've 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.
NPR's Richard Gonzales gives us a tour.
RICHARD GONZALES: In California, all you need is a doctor's 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: It's a 15,000-square-foot warehouse located near the Oakland Airport, and it's designed as a one-stop shop for everything you'll need for indoor hydroponic cultivation of marijuana, medical or otherwise - everything but the plant itself.
BRAND: iGROW is - I like to call it the medicinal marijuana superstore.
GONZALES: Justin Jorgensen is general manager of iGROW.
BRAND: You'll find everything from soil to any of the various grow mediums, so there's coca leaf, there's hydroton, there's 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 you'll need to grow weed indoors. That's where iGROW's onsite experts can help. They're called the Grow Squad, a name inspired by another big-box retailer, says Jorgensen.
BRAND: 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 isn't the first hydroponic store in Oakland, but it's 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.
BRAND: This is - historic first step toward ending cannabis prohibition. I've always believed that cannabis should be taxed and regulated and that our current laws aren't 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.
BRAND: 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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