Jack Cary’s medical marijuana dispensary,Greenwerkz, is across the street from the police department in Edgewater, a sleepy west Denver suburb.
“The cops come to visit once in awhile,” he says. “They’re very nice, once they see this isn’t some kind of crack house.”
Cary comes from a family line of herbalists and is a graduate of the American College of Health Care Sciences, a Portland, Ore.-based school that offers online, accredited degree programs.
Before Greenwerkz, he owned a company that produced herbal teas and another that made arthritis pain relief skin cream.
“Cannabis is a plant that, after decades of testing, has no known toxicity level,” says Cary. “You can’t overdose from it. It doesn’t addict you like painkillers. And it can be cultivated by the patients themselves. These are very inconvenient facts for people trying to legislate us out of business.”
Cary and two partners opened Greenwerkz in December 2009. They have another retail location in Denver, and he figures each dispensary cost them about $50,000 to open.
“We had a business plan, went out and raised funds. Many potential investors were not biting, even considering the economy. They are still paranoid that we could be shut down.”
“Our business vision comes from a willingness to take this risk right now, and by the sweat of our brow,” Cary adds. “This industry requires a lot of 12-hour days and seven-day weeks. If you’re lucky, you’ll make a little money, but that money comes as a byproduct of helping people.”
The average patient who smokes the marijuana goes through three-quarters of an ounce a month, says Cary. Greenwerkz sells all its pot at one price, currently $375 per ounce. The dispensaries employ seven people at the two locations. Each wears a necklace with a panic alarm that, when pressed, places a 911 call.
Greenwerkz has a open, windowed storefront, with a receptionist desk and a large waiting room. Two glassed-in shelving units hold about 75 strains of marijuana in quart jars, as well as an array of “edibles,” tinctures and bottled sodas. The shelving units also separate the waiting room from a massage room and a doctor’s consulting room, used when Cary arranges appointments between would-be patients and a doctor on call.
Greenwerkz also offers home delivery for those too sick to travel and arranges appointments for acupuncture, nutritional consulting and chiropractic services.
“We are going after the true medical demographic in a full, holistic way,” Cary said. “We offer neuro-muscular massage or Reiki treatment. We offer non-cannabis herbal products, such as yarrow, peppermint, allspice and white willow bark. Some of these are combined with cannabis in tinctures that have had phenomenal results.”
He’s enthusiastic about the patients Greenwerkz has helped, like the arthritic man who no longer needs his walker, or the people who’ve been able to cut way back on the daily doses of prescription drugs.
“We’ll see a ton of harsh drugs—pure poison—taken out of society,” says Cary.
Since opening, business has been brisk. Cary estimates a clientele of about 450, but it’s not just patients who come calling.
“Once you open your doors, product comes to you,” says Cary said. “Growers and other salespeople come through the door every day selling edibles, lighters, scented candles, looking for charity donations—you name it.”
With so many dispensaries opening around Denver, Cary thinks a market shakeout is inevitable and imminent.
“Looking at the market landscape, I am a little surprised at how many dispensaries did pop up,” he says. “But like any gold rush, any boom, there’ll be a bust. A lot of these dispensaries aren’t built for a marathon. There are crushing overheads, and many haven’t distinguished themselves in the marketplace.”
But Cary doesn’t think the growth of medical marijuana use won’t tail off any time soon.
“We are reaching tipping point of widespread acceptance,” he says. "They [people] are doing something that is of no harm to themselves or others.”