The Only Licensed Medical Pot Shop in the Midway Has 5,000 Patients

by on October 22, 2015 · 22 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Economy, Health, History, Labor, Ocean Beach

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The store section of the walk-in at the Point Loma Patients Consumer Cooperative. (All photos by Frank Gormlie)

Hannah Steria showed me into the cramped back office of the only licensed medical marijuana storefront in City Council District 2, the Point Loma Patients Consumer Cooperative, one of the only places in the building where we could do an interview in private. The place was crowded with patients and staff – two friendly security guards were very visible.

We were about 2 miles as the seagull flies from downtown Ocean Beach – and this was OB’s closest licensed pot storefront.

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Hannah at the managers’ desk.

Having gone through Adam Knopf, the owner of the company that runs the place, to arrange an interview with Hannah- the onsite manager of the day, I had plenty of questions, being a boomer fascinated with how this fast growing dispensary was doing. It was buried in the industrial area of the Midway District – over on Hancock Street between I-8 and the Sports Arena (I know it’s called after a casino, but it will always be “the Sports Arena”).

Once we settled into the interview, I began politely peppering Hannah with questions. First, I began with her background.  She’s been with the company for a year and a half, having started as a receptionist, moved up to a “bud tender” – someone who works with the patient customers on a one-to-one basis in the store part of the building – and then she became one of the 4 on-site managers.

Hannah is a local girl, kind of, as she was born in Lakeside, moved to Oregon with her parents when she was 4, and returned to the San Diego region in February 2013. “I have lots of family here,” she said, “and love the weather.” I had to chuckle at that – another Oregon refugee, kind of. She now lives in Encinitas.

At one point as I continued to gently throw questions at her, she blurts out, “I’m only twenty.” That was sort of amazing, as I had assumed she was at least in her mid-20s.  “I come off older”, she said.

She answers to a general manager named Heidi and to Adam, both with off-site offices. “Adam is here,” she added, “a lot of the time.”

“We’re doing lots of hiring right now,” Hannah continued. They have between 40 to 50 employees, she said, but that includes the delivery drivers and others who work at a separate location in Mission Hills. In total, there are about 20 full timers.  They make between $12 an hour on up to $18 or $19 for the lower managers.

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One of the 2 waiting rooms

They make sure no one works more than 40 hours a week. Many of the part-timers go to school or have other jobs. Hannah, herself, works from 7:45 am to 3:30 pm.  But she said, her hours change weekly. They have managers’ meetings once a month – where all 8 get together to discuss issues.

The “walk-in” is what Hannah & Co call the storefront. It has 4 managers and the delivery part of the business also has 4 managers. They pay taxes, and workers’ comp – but they don’t have to pay sales taxes right now, she said. Which makes their prices not as steep as they could be.

I asked Hannah about how many patients they have – and including the deliveries, she said, they have about 4,800. Wow, I thought, that is a lot. I confirmed that number the next day with Adam, and he told me over the phone that it’s actually closer to 5,000 patients. That is amazing.

Hannah was telling me that the storefront demands are many. “A lot of people,” she said, “think our jobs are a joke, that we just hang out, but there is lots to do here.” They take a complete inventory once a week, she told me. “People have to be here on time. We’re very strict about that.”

There’s regular special training for employees, she said, to educate them on the new products or what’s on the many shelves. The store keeps notebooks on everything and are constantly updated. Employees are asked to try out new products on their “down time” – away from work. Of course, there is no smoking on the premises. No one, no patient or staff can medicate in the building.

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Peering though the glass walls into the reception desk and 2nd waiting room.

Employees and the managers have to deal with the many vendors. I asked how many vendors, 20, 30? Hannah didn’t miss a beat. Each product, she said, has a vendor – and the numbers are always changing, but today, at least a hundred.  The vendors bring in sufficient quantities of their product that the staff only needs to stock up once a month (for each product).

How do patients find you? I asked her. Mainly through Weedmaps, she said, but quickly added – “we have some who say the OB Rag.” Yes, I pumped my arm.

Next on my list of queries, I asked Hannah how she perceived their competition with the un-certified dispensaries.  She reminded me that the city of San Diego has been cracking down recently on the unlicensed shops and there aren’t that many around. We both agreed that they proliferate in the County areas, but that Point Loma Patients was a long ways from the city line.

That was a big thing for Hannah. “Our patients don’t have to worry about us being closed down – it’s very reassuring to our patients.”

Can you tell me how much you are grossing? I asked her. All she would say was, “We’re doing really, really good.”

“Our stuff,” she added, “is a little pricey, but the quality is very good, and all our flower is tested [for THC content].”

We got up and entered the other sections of the “walk-in”. There are two well-lit, sunny waiting areas, with original seascapes and a large TV screen with current programs. All the glass walls make the walk-in seem very transparent and airy. The place even has a restroom for patients – something totally unheard of among the unlicensed dispensaries. I checked it out – very clean and well lit also.

The store itself is not too large of a room. But there is plenty of product on the shelves and counters, flower, edibles, waxes – more than the common unlicensed medical cannabis places have, I’d have to say. (I know, I’ve surveyed half a dozen.)

Just before I took photos of the store part, Hannah asked the patients if any of them minded that they might be in photos in the OB Rag, and amazingly, none did.

I said my good-byes and departed the dispensary. As I walked to my car, parked in the building’s rear parking lot, I recalled my last questions for Hannah. I had asked her about whether her family supported her working here. She had said, quite frankly, “My family is very supportive as long as I’m happy.”

I asked her whether her parents, in their early 50s smoked pot. “My dad,” she said, “was more of a hippie.” And during a visit of his from Oregon a couple of months ago, “I got high with my dad for the first time,” – we both laughed.

 

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

tyler October 22, 2015 at 2:01 pm

Shame on San Diego ASA and more importantly Marti Emerald for the RIDICULLOUSLY short sighted law requiring no more than 4 dispensaries per district.

A. They knew even 4 per district wouldn’t be allowed with their archaic zoning rules

B. They created de facto oligopolies

C. Patients are left with less access and higher prices

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Mercy Baron OB Mercy October 22, 2015 at 4:58 pm

Righteeoo Tyler. And this is why I go to a non certified dispensary.

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cc October 23, 2015 at 10:01 am

time will change all of that… just smoke your fake prescription weed and relax.

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tyler October 23, 2015 at 11:48 am

Change will happen at a snails pace in good ol’ SD. When it’s legalized in 2016 they’ll say they want to do dry runs with the “existing” shops, aka the 12 (maybe) that will be open. It’ll take years for them to be sensible and let more locations open, by which time the industry will fly right by.

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cc October 23, 2015 at 12:17 pm

Let’s not act like weed isn’t really easy to get right now.

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Christo October 23, 2015 at 7:42 am

Medical Pot is a joke. Everyone knows it.

Complete. Total. B.S.

Just a bunch of stoners looking to get their high “legally”.

Why can’t they just regulate like alcohol?

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cc October 23, 2015 at 10:01 am

it’s going to happen soon enough.

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tyler October 23, 2015 at 11:49 am

Yeah. It’s not like some of us have massive health issues that require cannabis. It’s literally the ONLY thing that can provide relief for some of my rare digestive disorders. So.. kindly piss off.

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Christo October 23, 2015 at 9:35 pm

Tyler,
Despite my disbelief in the veracity of medical pot- I hope you feel better.

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Christo October 25, 2015 at 9:09 pm

Due to the BS laws in this country, it is not a highly studied drug as far as medicinal value. We all know anecdotally that one tends to sleep more, eat more and are more relaxed on it. I have no experience in any digestive issues related to it (unless you count eating excessively due to the munchies- in which case I have extensive experience). If it helps you- great.

That being said, the way it is being distributed is highly suspect.

Why is dosage not regulated like other medicines? No dosage control at all.
Why is the manager of the dispensary not a Pharmacist?
Why isn’t it available at the Pharmacy?

It may have medical value. But the way it’s currently being done making a mockery of it’s potential.

Legalize it recreationally. Tax the crap out of it. Study it and let’s maximize it’s potential.

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Chuck October 28, 2015 at 7:29 am

Cannabis doesn’t use dosing guidelines because it doesn’t need them. You need dosing guidelines for Aspirin or it will literally kill you…along with just about every other man made synthetic “medicine” you can name.

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Geoff Page Geoff Page October 23, 2015 at 4:15 pm

I think that is a bit over the top. Sure, not everyone who uses these facilities does so for real medical reasons but to say that medical pot is a joke and total BS ignores the scientific data that has proven it has medical benefits. I don’t disagree that it could be regulated like alcohol but that will come once it becomes completely legal.

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Christo October 23, 2015 at 9:23 pm

What other “medicine” is sold without strict dosage control? Is the manager of this place (or any dispensary) a Pharmacist?

Rare digestive disorders? Please post the peer reviewed scientific journal that shows the efficacy. And I’m sure your regular Doctor prescribed it- didn’t he or she? Or was it some dude whose only job is prescribing?

I like to smoke pot. I think it should be legal- but every person I personally know with a card has some BS made up illness that they didn’t have before “medical” pot became available.

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tyler October 26, 2015 at 11:21 am

I’m not going to post my medical disorders on this site, guy. If you knew me you’d know I’m not some regular Joe making up some bullshit about anxiety or sleeping. Not only do I have a recommendation here, I was being recommended cannabis for my disorders by my MD back on the East Coast. I’ve had multiple surgeries, endoscopies, etc to see what else could possibly help with my disease. The ONLY thing that helps my pain is cannabis. And you know why it’s not exactly clear how it benefits me scientifically? Because the drug is fucking schedule 1 and we haven’t done the research as to WHY it helps.

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Christo October 26, 2015 at 11:44 am

Tyler

I apologize.

I realized I was asking for medical history once I posted but there is no way to rescind (although looking back I should have emailed the Rag and asked to have my comment taken down).

Once again- I hope you feel better. I also believe it should not be a schedule 1 drug.

Peace to you,
Christo

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Mercy Baron OB Mercy October 28, 2015 at 8:27 am

I have advanced degenerative arthritis. No pain killer has ever worked on my pain at all. I have had 5 joints replaced already. Pot gives me some measure of relief. Now you know someone without a BS disease.

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Rufus October 24, 2015 at 9:53 am

Is there any question why it’s called dope?

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unwashedwallmartthonG October 24, 2015 at 10:35 am

“Dope” is a derogatory term right-wingers devised decades ago when they realized that pot is so relaxing that The Masters couldn’t brainwash young people w/ fascist propaganda.

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Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie October 26, 2015 at 9:47 am

Hey, does the Pope smoke dope? Here’s the answer.

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MANAGEMENT October 26, 2015 at 3:47 pm

PLPCC Management here. We would like to take the opportunity to clear up a statement made in the article. We do pay sales taxes, the patients price is including tax at this time. We will do our best to keep it that way for as long as we can help it. Stay Classy San Diego

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Debra October 27, 2015 at 10:00 pm

Another natural thing that works great for pain, and other issues, is Magnesium Oil.

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Husband October 28, 2015 at 8:45 am

I have watched my wife struggle with back pain from degenerative disks for 25 years. She has been given almost very type of prescription pill there is. They would help her get through the day but really not get to the pain. Finally we got here to try a “cookie” she used to smoke pot back than and just did not want to feel “high”. In the first time in all these years she found something that went to the pain.

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