Medical pot shop opens today

Drew McNeil dispensing meds in the form of medical marijuana.

Being green just got a little easier in Grand Junction.

A new medical marijuana dispensary, Nature’s Medicine, opens today at 1001 Patterson Road, Suite 5.

Owner Dusty Higgins, 28, aims to offer medical marijuana, as well as a host of natural remedies and treatments, in the business tucked into a strip mall between St. Mary’s Hospital and the Ale House Restaurant.

Medical marijuana use is legal in Colorado for patients who have a debilitating medical condition, such as cancer, glaucoma or HIV, or those who are diagnosed with chronic pain.

Patients need the approval of a Colorado state-licensed physician to gain a medical marijuana card, documentation that is needed to purchase marijuana at a dispensary or to grow plants at home. Marijuana use is otherwise illegal under federal law.

Three other dispensaries are in Grand Junction, said workers at Nature’s Medicine, but theirs is the first business with a storefront open to both medical marijuana users and the general public. Only marijuana users with a card are allowed into a locked room off the lobby where marijuana is stored.

“We’re not trying to throw a marijuana leaf out into the community. We’re trying to take it to a medicinal level,” said Robert Present, 37, owner of the Nature’s Medicine company.

Nature’s Medicine also operates a location in Loveland and aims to open a storefront soon in Boulder, Present said.

Higgins, an Iraq war veteran who also has a medical marijuana card, said he wanted to open the shop to erase the stigma about using marijuana. Walls sport a new coat of red, yellow and white paint and the shop is well-lit. Higgins said the store will not be decked with marijuana leaves or references to marijuana in an effort to maintain a professional atmosphere.

As of April 30, 2009, 166 people in Mesa County had medical marijuana cards, according to the Colorado Department of Health and Environment. An additional 177 people hold cards in the surrounding counties of Garfield, Delta and Montrose.

Present said the company will be working with a doctor who has a license to practice in 27 states, including Colorado. Present declined to give the physician’s name.

Nature’s Medicine also plans to hire an on-site certified nursing assistant to assist with patients’ health needs.

Patients are allowed to purchase up to 2 ounces of marijuana at any one time. Rates for that amount are $650 to $700. Marijuana is usually smoked, but it can be purchased in liquid and pill form. Store workers said they will grow the plants off-site. Marijuana use will not occur at the store, they said.

“We can show them that we can be a part of this great community. We’re not here to make a mockery of the system,” Present said.

Present was convicted of a felony charge of cultivating marijuana in Fort Collins in 2005, according to Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

He was charged as a special offender for having two guns in another room. That charge was dropped when he pleaded guilty to cultivation. Present said he was growing 70 plants at the time, but he said his sentence was lighter because he had a medical marijuana card from California and was in the process of getting one in Colorado. Present was sentenced to 30 days in jail, three years probation and 180 hours of community service, CBI said.

According to the state’s health department, 72 percent of all approved applicants are male and the average age of card holders is 27. Sixty-three counties, or 98 percent of the state’s counties, have registered applicants, with nearly half of those people located in Denver and Boulder.


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