"It is helpful for patients to be able to walk into a garden supply store and be able to talk about cannabis directly rather than use euphemisms like 'tomatoes,'" says Robert Raich, an attorney specializing in medical cannabis law.
Mark A.R. Kleiman, a professor of public policy at the UCLA School of Public Affairs, believes that, while the plant has real benefits for certain patients, the rhetoric surrounding medical marijuana is in many ways a smokescreen.
In California, where medical marijuana has been legal since 1996, "most of the people in the medical marijuana business are in the marijuana business," he says. "The physicians [who prescribe marijuana] are mostly not practicing medicine. They're selling recommendations. They market themselves that way."
So when the District of Columbia opens its first dispensaries, the staffers at weGrow could end up selling to recreational users posing as real patients. And if weGrow truly prides itself on selling to patients and not recreational stoners, Wong could find himself conflicted at the possibility that new revenues might come from people without a true medical need for pot...once again, a concern that doesn't keep petunia sellers up at night.
While weGrow wrestles with these philosophical questions, it must still deal with everyday business realities. And the path hasn't been all rainbows; Derek Peterson, Mann's former business partner, split from the company last year, alleging financial mismanagement. And the company was forced to close its Oakland location last year.
So at least in its growing pains, weGrow is showing it is susceptible to the same problems as any other business.